Did you see last night’s moon?
It has been a good moon. Full, bright, big. I watched it last night through the boughs of cedar trees. It was so close I thought I might give it a hug. Hold it to my heart.
It has been a good moon. Catalyst for new beginnings. My best friend became auntie to triplets with this moon. Two girls and a boy.
It has been a good moon. I heard Nikky Finney, National Book Award winner, tell poetic truths underneath this moon. She was speaking at Reed College inside a chapel with secret doors and dark beams. She said, “When you know something no one else knows, hang on to it.” She said, “You have to tell the truth.” She said, “Write. Do your work.”
She talked about courage. She said it was easy for her to find the courage to write the hard truths. She came from a family where no one went to bed until they had done something good for their community. She came from courageous people. She had courageous examples. She said, when you are afraid to write the truth remember the courageous people.
This helped me.
I thought of my great-grandparents surviving boarding school, I thought of my birth mother giving me up for adoption, I thought of my grandmother as she let herself go into cancer, I thought of “Bad Indians” who refused to die (because as the saying goes, the only good Indian, is a dead Indian).
Poetry under a full moon restored my courage to the page. I remembered that words are medicine and I was reminded that a writer’s job is to be of service:
“We begin with history. The Slave Codes of South Carolina, 1739:
“A fine of one hundred dollars and six months in prison will be imposed for anyone found teaching a slave to read or write, and death is the penalty for circulating any incendiary literature.
“The ones who longed to read and write, but were forbidden, who lost hands and feet, were killed by laws written by men who believed they owned other men. Their words devoted to quelling freedom and insurgency, imagination, all hope – what about the possibility of one day making a poem? The king’s mouth and the queen’s tongue arranged, to perfection, on the most beautiful paper, sealed with wax and palmetto tree sap, determined to control what can never be controlled: the will of the human heart to speak its own mind.
“Tonight, these forbidden ones move all around the room as they please. They sit at whatever table they want. They wear camel-colored field hats and tomato-red kerchiefs. They are bold in their Sunday-go-to-meeting best. Their cotton croker-sack shirts are black washpot clean and irreverently not tucked in. Some have even come in white Victorian collars and bustiers. Some have just climbed out of the cold wet Atlantic, just to be here. We shiver together.
“If my name is ever called out, I promised my girl-poet self, so too would I call out theirs.” ~from Nikky Finney’s Acceptance Speech for the National Book Award for Poetry, November 16, 2011
May you remember that words hold power. Let yours be medicine.