by Zinta Aistars
--to Maya Angelou, in tribute and in reply to her poem for the United Nations, titled “A Brave and Startling Truth”, after hearing her read in her deep and resonating voice to an audience of at risk youth at Starr Commonwealth in Albion, Michigan on October 5, 2003.
When we come to the truth,
will we bear its shining?
That glorious blaze, that roaring heat,
that gaze into the eyes
that pierces every fog?
The strangeness of morality,
values we have shirked from our shoulders,
become a beggar’s threadbare and tattered coat,
more holes than fabric, more stitch than warmth,
we who have become such suave experts of evasion,
escape artists from the weight of a yoke
of avoided responsibility. Not me, no, never I.
Will we wear this patched and humbling garment?
That we might cherish such words
that do not slice and cut and wound,
but apply them instead as balm and heal
the long-aching wounds of mistaken passion –
the greed, the avarice, the lies.
To polish away the centuries of tarnish
of words coated with sheen of gold
but beneath the basest metal,
a trickery of hissed apologies
when the heart was hollow,
of honeyed seductions
when the heart was empty,
of illustrious praise
when the tongue was forked.
When we come to it, when at last
we arrive – will we recognize
this beauty that is, once was,
or might have been – ourselves?
The gallant spirit of ordinary goodness,
the reach of a warm and loving hand,
the medicine of a kind word,
the strength of a shoulder
that leans against another
and together walks a common path.
We are neither devils nor divines,
but the brave if faulty heart of a single good man
and the singing spirit of a single good woman,
and the shining arc of a globe
that circles and twirls in its smooth orbit
of a peace found, understood,
cherished, and retained.
When we come to it,
as we must, in our evening of peace,
on this lonely and silent circuit
with scrubbed clean faces,
hand holding hand,
bless us in that moment
with the ability to not only see,
but to endure the radiance of light.