Years ago, I put on borrowed cap and gown and gathered on the manicured lawn of local high school with the other graduates as we said goodbye to one chapter of our lives and welcomed in another. Most of my friends already had their dorm room furniture picked out, excited to heading straight to university. I sat, with poorly bleached and butchered hair completely unaware of what my next steps would look like.
On this day when we each got our names called out by the principal, shook hand, and grabbed rolled-up document promising we were done, I received a book.
Actually, I received two. One was from my sister and one was from my creative writing teacher who inspired me to become a poet.
My teacher gave me Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. A tiny, pocket-sized book that I have carried with me through many apartments and states and lives. Last summer, I dusted it off and read it as though it were a bible. Underlining words of wisdom as I nursed a broken heart and found my way toward love again.
My sister gave me Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman. This became my favorite poem, as I was captivated by the way she celebrated bodies through language. Perhaps this is what led me toward writing so much about the body.
Maya Angelou passed away a few days ago and I immediately felt sadness that I never got to be in the same room with her all of the times she spoke her words out loud.
But the words still exist. She will forever be archived and remembered because our bookshelves are a reminder of all that she gave us.
This is why we (must) write.
I wasn’t supposed to still be here. But I stuck around and read a bunch of books and wrote a bunch of poems and I’ve got ISBN’s in my skin and now there is so much love saturating my muscles that I cannot believe I was so adamant about leaving here.*** Dear Maya Angelou. We rise from the weight of your words. We rise from the courage of realizing that we are all drafts; we are all survivors surviving. We rise from the ink of your tongue reminding us that we are all poems; we are all poets.