John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

Poet's Corner: Still I Rise

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise

Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou (born 1928)

My choice of this poem was inspired in part by the death yesterday of former U.S. Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). Helms was fairly well known for having a, shall we say, somewhat unenlightened view on race. He would reportedly start singing "Dixie" whenever Sen. Carole Moseley Braun was within earshot, and he aired an infamous ad about racial quotas when running against an African-American candidate. So here's a poem that he would probably hate.

Unfortunate racial attitudes aside, here's something you may not have known about the ultra-conservative Helms: he was good friends with the ultra-liberal Democratic Senator from Minnesota, Paul Wellstone. They got to be friends while flying to and from Israel for Yitzhak Rabin's funeral, and while their relationship was predominantly a social one, they did co-sponsor an amendment in 2000 to delay Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China until the President certified that China had protected human rights. (It failed.)

Tags: poet's corner

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