What goes around…

“The emotional sway of events and the impermanence
of construction echo the ways of dying love.”

Maya Angelou, “Surviving,” from Letter to My Daughter


I read Maya Angelou’s Letter to My Daughter the summer after I graduated from William and Mary, in 2010. This past weekend, I went home to Red Oak to visit my family and pick up some things for my new place at Redlands. I found some old sketchbooks, one from 2010, and the above quote from Angelou’s “Surviving” was written on one of the pages. I remember picking it out because I had been thinking a lot about change and impermanence, memories of emotions and attachment to material things. Now, four years later, the quote still gets me. And it is still relevant to my interests as an artist. And to think, I just spent two years agonizing over “stating my purpose” as an artist! I should have just used this as my artist statement… :P

You can read the full poem below.

Surviving by Maya Angelou

Where the winds of disappointment
dash my dream house to the ground
and anger, octopus-like, wraps its tentacles around my soul
I just stop myself. I stop in my tracks
and look for one thing that can
heal me.
I find in my memory
one child’s face
any child’s face
looking at a desired toy
with sweet surprise
a child’s face
with hopeful expectation in his eyes

The second I realize I am gazing at a face
sweet with youth and innocence, I am drawn away
from gloom and despair, and into the pleasing climate
of hope.

Each time my search for true love
leads me to the gates of hell
where Satan waits with open arms
I imagine the laughter of women friends,
their sounds tinkle like wind charms
urged by a searching breeze
I remember the sturdy guffaw of happy men and
my feet, without haste, and with purpose
move past the threatening open gates
to an area, secure from the evil of heartbreak

I am a builder
Sometimes I have built well, but often
I have built without researching the ground
upon which I put my building
I raised a beautiful house
and lived in it for a year
Then it slowly drifted away with the tides
for I had laid the foundation
upon shifting sand

Another time I erected a
mansion, the windows shining
like mirrors
and the walls were hung
with rich tapestry, but
the earth shook with a
slight tremor, and the walls gave way, the floors opened
and my castle fell into pieces around my feet

The emotional sway of events and the impermanence
of construction echo the ways of dying love.

I have found that the platonic affection
in friendships and the familial
love for children can be relied upon
with certainty to lift the bruised soul
and repair the wounded spirit
and I am finished with
erotic romance.


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