Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer

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9781400066100: Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer
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Grace, dignity, and eloquence have long been hallmarks of Maya Angelou’s poetry. Her measured verses have stirred our souls, energized our minds, and healed our hearts. Whether offering hope in the darkest of nights or expressing sincere joy at the extraordinariness of the everyday, Maya Angelou has served as our common voice.

Celebrations is a collection of timely and timeless poems that are an integral part of the global fabric. Several works have become nearly as iconic as Angelou herself: the inspiring “On the Pulse of Morning,” read at President William Jefferson Clinton’s 1993 inauguration; the heartening “Amazing Peace,” presented at the 2005 lighting of the National Christmas Tree at the White House; “A Brave and Startling Truth,” which marked the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations; and “Mother,” which beautifully honors the first woman in our lives. Angelou writes of celebrations public and private, a bar mitzvah wish to her nephew, a birthday greeting to Oprah Winfrey, and a memorial tribute to the late Luther Vandross and Barry White.

More than a writer, Angelou is a chronicler of history, an advocate for peace, and a champion for the planet, as well as a patriot, a mentor, and a friend. To be shared and cherished, the wisdom and poetry of Maya Angelou proves there is always cause for celebration.

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About the Author:

Maya Angelou was raised in Stamps, Arkansas. In addition to her bestselling autobiographies, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and The Heart of a Woman, she wrote numerous volumes of poetry, among them Phenomenal Woman, And Still I Rise, On the Pulse of Morning, and Mother. Maya Angelou died in 2014.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

A BRAVE AND STARTLING TRUTH

Dedicated to the hope for peace, which lies,
sometimes hidden, in every heart.

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent
suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth.
And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
When we come to it

When the curtain falls on the minstrel show
of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed
clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular
sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lay them in identical plots in foreign soil
When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have
ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in a good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And our children can dress their dolls in flags
of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of sexual abuse
When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets
Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into
Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother
Mississippi
who, without favor,
Nurtures all creatures in their depths and on
their shores
These are not the only wonders of
the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade,
and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of
peace
We, this people, on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Can come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe
We, this people, on this small and drifting
planet

Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That, in a twinkling, life is sapped from the
living
Yet those same hands can touch with such
healing,
irresistible tenderness,
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor
divines
When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating
body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear
When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, we are the true
wonder of this world
That is when, and only when,
We come to it.

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