Thursday, January 27, 2011

There Are Saints And They Do Speak

Ms. Maya Angelou spoke at FAMU last night and I wasn't there.
About a billion years ago, I was, in the audience at that same university with a couple of my kids. About a million years ago she was speaking at FSU and I went but the line snaked for blocks around the building and it wasn't that big of a building and I went home.

I feel a little guilty this morning, knowing I didn't go last night. I used to be that sort of person who went and heard people speak or read. Hell, I took my older kids to see Allen Ginsberg and we stayed until he started in on the real graphic stuff and then I gathered them up and left Allen up there on that stage with his marigolds and drum. I went to see John Updike and Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut and oh, I don't even know who.
Saints and sinners and funny guys and gals and they all changed my life in one way or another.

But last night Maya Angelou spoke and I was not there and I guess it's okay. How many times do you expect someone to change/save your life? I have, of course, read all of her books and even listened to some of them again on tape and I will never forget watching her on TV when Bill Clinton was inaugurated and it was so cold that day but there was hope and I was piling hope upon hope in MY heart because this man had asked a poet, a woman poet, an African American woman poet to bundle up on that cold, cold day and to read a poem that she wrote for the occasion and it was so beautiful.

Her voice, that sob in it that rises from far deeper even than her gut, some place so deep in her that it's like the words, each and every one of them, are caged birds that she must force out of herself and then they fly. Oh yes. They fly.

They have flown into my heart, and probably yours too and last night I am sure they flew into the hearts of others who did go to hear her.

But no, I was here with my husband, my grandson who is too young for such outings and I wouldn't have gone anyway. Let's face it. To have driven to town and found a parking place and it was cold and dark and I am way to apt and too content to stay here in my cozy house and let the world go on without me, one person after another being saved by the voices of the poets, the preachers, the saints, the sinners, the singers, the saviors, the savants.

But it's okay. I can close my eyes and I can hear that voice of Maya Angelou's and I suppose I always will be able to. She has the sort of voice you never forget. I honestly think that the way it dances through the air, flies through the air with its timbre, its force, its truth, its love will physically change you. I think it changed me, a billion years ago.

I am glad I went then, to hear her. So glad. There are saints in this world and if you can, you need to go and see them in their real physical presence, hear the way their voices carry what they have to say.

Well, that's what I think on this Thursday morning in Lloyd, Florida, where it is very clear and very cold and my grandson is up, pink-cheeked and still in his pajamas, laughing right now while his mother changes him. He is changing my world, too.
Maya would understand.
I may not know a lot but I feel certain of that.

Good morning, y'all. I wish I had a tidy ending here but I don't. There's a baby, the dogs, and the oatmeal is ready. So I'll just say that- good morning- and hope it's true for you.

Love...Ms. Moon


  1. I remember Maya far, far better than Allen, but they're both in me. Sitting up in the bleachers at FAMU or down in the seats at Ruby Diamond. Did Billy ever tell you about the time we took him to see punk rock artist Lydia Lunch speak and blew his mind?

  2. Maya would definitely understand. This is a beautiful meditation on a powerhouse spirit woman and i love it. I love her. And that is an amazing photo of her, I haven't seen that one before. This is such a perfect way to start my morning, drinking coffee and reading Ms. Moon musing on Maya. Thank you, dear Mary. I love you and am happy to be here, sipping my morning brew with you.

  3. I didn't name my kid after her for nothin'.

  4. I remember her reading that poem at Clinton's Inauguration. Her voice seeps into you and holds you till she stops. She is one woman I would love to meet...

  5. Yeah. I too, am sure that Maya understands, in fact, blesses you and all the reasons you stayed home.

    And I think that the chicken this morning let you know, heart to heart.

    Love you.

  6. I watched an episode of Iconoclasts on the Sundance Channel with Maya and Dave Chappelle. I so enjoyed her wisdom.

    I would give my right arm to have had coffee with Kurt Vonnegut. He is my idol, like you.

    Love you so.

  7. I'm excited to see her later in March as part of my writers' word series. I wish you could come with me.

  8. I should read some of her stuff. Whenever I see one of her quotes, I love it, but she's not really part of the cultural landscape so much this side of the ocean. Perhaps we should change that.

  9. I have Letter to My Daughter on my living room end table. She is a life changer, that woman. (Saint Maya. It has a decided ring to it.)

  10. I remember taking two kids from the shelter to see her at Ruby Diamond sometime around '99-01. We whooped so loud at her from the balcony and she waved from the podium. Afterwards, the 15 year-old girl who was with me, a huge fan, broke through the security line, got to the limo and Ms. Angelou gave her a hug then shooed her back.

  11. I heard her at a Junior League convention several years ago - and I quote what I remember most from that profound talk - her saying that her grandmother had given her great advice that it takes a great man to be better than no man at all. She totally rocks.

    Speaking of fabulous speakers: A quick plug - the Friends of the Library are bringing Christopher Buckley - Losing Mum and Pup, Boomsday, Thank You for Smoking among others - to Turner Auditorium on Wednesday, February 2 at 8 pm for the 2011 Author Event. Tickets are $50 - let me know if you want to hear him. I listened to Losing Mum and Pup on cd - (the library has it) and he reads it - it is some good stuff!!

  12. She was magnificent at the inauguration. What a moving voice and a strong person.


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