I am in a soundless room
Buried under cloudy skies and forgotten promises
And the way you passed the one you love like a stranger
The first thing you said burned
But it’s not a bad thing to be certain, to be sure
We can still have the same happy ending
We are going on the road to the right place
You said it is the only thing that you need
Tomorrow is the first time I get to see what I have
You have seen it the whole time
Trigger WarningThis review will discuss triggering content explored in Maya Angelou’s book, including childhood abuse and trauma, rape, and racism.
This book is a classic for a reason. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou does not pull a single punch. She is matter-of-fact when discussing the prejudice and racism inflicted upon her from a young age. She is fearless in her retelling of a childhood rape. Dr. Angelou writes about such heavy issues with a hand that says, “Here it is – keep looking.”
This book is fantastically written. I may be partial as a poet myself, but I loved the way Dr. Angelou wrote, as though the whole book were a work of poetry. She fit words together in such a way that I was left reeling. I think this is a difficult thing to do for a novel-length piece. However, I believe it was executed in such a way that it enhanced the book rather than overwhelming it.
I also have to laud the honesty of the piece. It takes great courage to write so openly about trauma and tragedy. Imagine as a child a white woman decides your name is too hard to pronounce and therefore calls you something else entirely. The dehumanization of that single act is something that has remained at the forefront of my mind. This book is a reminder that, though we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go.
I’ll be honest – this book took me weeks to get through. I enjoyed the way it was written, and the story is compelling with good pacing. So what was the issue? The problem for me lay within myself, not the book. The subject matter is really heavy. Given the current climate of Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, as well as my own traumas, at times I had to put this book down and walk away, sometimes for days at a time. I needed time to process what I was reading and the emotions evoked by the author.
I also felt that the ending was a little abrupt. But, considering it’s the first in a decent-sized series, I get why she ended there. It made me want to know what happened next.
Overall, I’ll give this book a 4/5. The subject matter is profoundly important, so it is a must-read for everyone, in my opinion. That said, because of the weight of the subject matter, I don’t think this is a book I’ll be picking up for a second read in the near future.
I am searching for something that doesn’t exist
a secret that lives somewhere between
dusk and “I miss you”
hidden in that small voice in the back of your head
that whispers “you’re missing something” or
“what have you forgotten?”
an unexplored part of the pacific or the atlantic
or something in between I never could fathom –
maybe it says “you’re getting colder”
a memory (or was it a dream?) about that time
you gave me some small part of you
but I can’t find it now
and I’m looking in all the places you told me to put it
I am searching for something that doesn’t exist
because I swear there has to be something else
some innuendo dripping in ink still wet
spelling out all the ways I failed you
after every wretched moment
there really is nothing at all
Dappled emeralds coated decaying pine needles
Ninety bones for one night
She counted them out
Enough for two galaxy viewings
One hundred and eighty
They thudded against thick stationary paper
“Can I buy a few sheets?”
A nod from behind the counter
Misplaced whiskers floated in the foreign breeze
Forgotten skin drifted in the sunlight
She laid down two more bones
Snow stuck to her over-heated skin
Running in rivulets to her breasts
Thoughts dripped from a frozen lavender tongue
And she scrambled to gather them up
Ink slid over the fancy stationary paper
The world was so quiet
She thought for a moment she could breathe
a maple leaf sits in the center of the churning atlantic
not wondering how it got there
not caring where it goes
how beautiful it must be
to be the only autumn leaf
but not know you mean the end
My soul is so tired.
Like the tree in my front yard that was struck by lightning
it creaks in the wind, just barely standing, constantly threatening to fall.
It asks me from it’s curled up ball in a dark corner
“when can I go home?”
and I know it doesn’t mean when are we going home to the tree struck by lightning
and the great windowed eyes of a house that feel like I don’t belong there.
I know it means that it’s tired and dragging through dirty watercolor
water days just isn’t doing it anymore.
I saw a shooting star for the first time last week and I didn’t know what to wish for
because I couldn’t remember what the point of hope was.
My therapist asks me how I’m feeling
but that’s a really hard question to answer when you don’t
feel anything at all anymore.
See, somewhere along the way I forgot what it was to be me without the capital D
depression. It’s so easy to let it be my personality instead,
like slipping on a wool sweater that you hate because it’s so itchy
and you know you’ll be scratching all night but hey,
who cares? You’ll blend in with the wallpaper and someone will bump into you saying
“oops, sorry, didn’t see you there”
and you’ll realize your presence and your absence have the equal effect
of absolutely nothing.
Somewhere along the way I forgot how to ask for love.
I forgot how to unfold rose petals under my eye lids
and lap the moonlight from dreams I can never remember.
I forgot how to smile with the songbirds and grab your hand in the sunshine
that I can’t see through the blindfold.
The world is so focused on telling me that I matter
but the only thing inconsequential here is me.
I can tell by the way the wind blows regardless of if I see it
and the way my voice crumbles but no one notices because
I’m hardly there anyway
and the way passersby’s eyes slide right over me.
I can’t remember the last time I was content
and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.
It means I’m not done yet.
I may be nothing now. A butterfly still caught in the cocoon,
a half-told story, a sad girl sitting in cold bathwater but bathing in candlelight,
a tomorrow that isn’t promised.
I’m not promised.
But I’m not done yet.
A single feather lost
from a collection of pillows
floating across sunbeams
buffeted by turrets of dust
dappled in the same sameness
of every tomorrow and yesterday
no more wasted invitations
no more sighing obligations
The sky is deceptively blue today
And bugs whine in the Indian summer heat
(Is it still an Indian summer if it happens every year?)
I woke up late
Which is to say I woke up at the same time I always do
Which is to say I have no reason to get up in the morning
Which is to say I do but I can’t see it with this heavy
Blanketing my fogged thoughts
So I sleep instead and try to remember dreams
That I wish I could write into reality
Which is to say I could –
I’m a writer you know –
But I have this nothingness surrounding my peony heart
It’s a numbness I guess, but also
But simply nothing at the same time
I wonder if I really am a writer
Or if that, too, was a “phase” just like they said my sexuality would be
But now in this time that should be autumn
I feel like it’s the end of something
Because endings are just so much simpler
Or maybe it’s just October 13
And nothing is so significant after all
My depression settles like a blanket over my head,
warm and suffocating and familiar. Some days,
it slinks around behind my brain, hiding
from the sun of the good days. Other days,
it sits in my skull like a stone, daring me
to smile, lest it remind me no one cares,
Today, it hangs over my head, a darkened room
only lit by the splinter of light carving a path
from the hallway.
Today, I am too hot and too cold all at once.
Today, I am too much and nothing at all.
There is nothing kind about pretending to love someone
long after you’ve forgotten what their voice sounds like
on sleepy, coffee-scented Sunday mornings.
There is nothing authentic about excuses dripping in guilt.
You know this.
Yet somehow, you’ve decided the rosebush blooming next to your door,
the one that caresses your doorstep with blood-red petals
even when it hurts to let them fall,
“The thorns hurt,” you say, but you haven’t seen the thorns in years.
What really hurts is knowing that you planted the rosebush there –
lifetimes ago, it seems –
but now you can’t bear to look at it
because it reminds you of the time you almost died.