It’s hard to imagine what I’ll do if I ever see my son on the cross. See him nailed for doing nothing. Watch him to carry a cross for others people’s sins. Watch him choose death in the cross so they live. The sheer strength of Mary is all I keep thinking about on days I like strength with my own. Days I want to lock myself up and pretend that I am alone. Then I remember Mary. Remember her grace. Remember her solitude. Remember that she did so much more than I could ever imagine as a mother.
Whether we like it or not, Mary, like words are all we need. They are great when weak. Stand through the times like night. Invisible but belong to those open in all directions to wilderness or distant landscapes. These words I write remind me of the grace I see from shadows that fall like on days when skies are blues, trees bristle with the wind as birds sing their songs, like on the first of May. We came together to give thanks, came one by one to offer roses to Mary on this first day of May. She makes us know that we can live freely because her son carried all that was against us, straight up to the cross. I am living just as free because she loves me.
I think about the day he was kicked out of school often. They rise up during moments like today, rise up like the moon, to remind me of how far we have come. The journey has indeed been long. Here was a boy, kicked out of his first school experience only after two days. Here is a mother, who cried alone in her car with him, wondering what our life will be come. Here is a boy who brought the words autism to my soul. Here is a boy for whom all sorts of remedy became all we knew. Here is a boy who barely spoke a word at three. Here is a boy who only pointed at things he wanted. Here is a boy for when words came repeated them often so his brain would never forget. Here is a boy who still repeats words so his brain remembers. Here is a boy for whom hand gestures are like silent friends. Here is a boy for whom friends are everyone in the universe and more. Here is a boy for whom bubbles and air in his being run free never forgetting their roots. Here too is a boy who memorized the entire mass, once words that seemed distant turned to dreams of tears, of joy, at least for me and him and everyone who remembers the day we knew we were destined for greatness, yet blessed with difference on our side.
There are still miles ahead to go. Still things I worry about like words inappropriate he says out loud not knowing the weight they carry. Strangers, all sorts, he greets and speaks to on the road, expecting they are as innocent and brilliant as he is. He is truly innocent and brilliant and unfamiliar with the ways of the world, still that I fear for what the future holds. I fear but choose this moment to remind myself to look at the bright side always. That’s what the universe said to me, as we played at a park the next day after being kicked out of school. That’s what the universe still says to me, as we all stand by his side celebrating his first holy communion. Now son, flesh of my flesh, now that you receive the body and blood of the one who first loved you, know that all of life runs through your veins. You silence or laughter or difference or joy isn’t weakness but for his glory and he will want you to look at the bright side always. If all this defines you, if you still live for the universe free, then we are open always to this bright side of you, this power within you.
There’ll be red sand. Red stoneless sand will line all the roads you see. But still, keep walking. The distant paths will blend to red and orange and red again. You’ll drop to your knees to feel their reddish nature. The roads ahead will lay bare, but for footsteps. Hurried steps. Hushful legs. Bristling through unaware of their walk through roads of red and oranges. You’ll see women and children walking. Some with babies carried at their back, walking. Some with things on their heads, like water or oranges shaped like pyramids, walking. Some, walking and waiting for their turns on orange and black Keke’s or motorbikes. Reds and oranges blend with the sole of their feet, moving freely with all the forces within. Everyone you see will be going somewhere. Hurried and unhurried steps, will be moving somewhere. Legs will do all the walking. Mouths will do all the greeting. But eyes, will speak only what eyes see.
Sometimes we don’t need experts. Not when we know the truth of our lives for ourselves. Sometimes all we need are spaces and places that allow us to name and describe our truths for ourselves, as we know it too. Sometimes, all we want is to listen more closely to ourselves, freely tell and share all our fears, compare all our wounds, not for your pity, but to see if through my words as shared to you, I can find healing for myself through you. It’s only in sharing, that we see ourselves more clearly. Sometimes all we want are eyes that see us clearly and ears that hear us fairly and minds that open up to us more dearly. Sometimes, I want to be next to those who allow me to see beyond all my eyes can see of that which is within me. I am afraid of what words will do if only I have the time to share it but sometimes all we want are the times, all of it for revealing our deepest fears, crying as we release all that we bury deeply, knowing that this poem we weave together with the words sometimes can only begin to manifest as the sum of our lives because we used the power of some times to change what is, know what has been, and imagine together the possibilities of what might be. Keep some times.
All of this was inspired by the great Adrienne Rich. Discovering her is doing something else to my mind and words. It is so scary but I am in awe and grateful.
The images you have of me. Mother, researcher, doing work in far away places. All of them are true. But those that are invisible. Everything hidden, under, and in between the lines like Toni Morrison’s invisible ink, are the bones that keep me tall and erect. One day, I will leave you hoping to see just how the story unfolds. What scenery passes through my window daily or whether i truly kiss the night air. Only that it would just be the beginning of the day in which all that I am to become, everything buried deeply within me, oozes forth like an ache.
I am possible, today, tomorrow, and forever, because I know my dreams, and my dreams go on dreaming, unbroken, unfettered, unafraid. They look to rivers and mountains, parks and creeks for inspiration that some call ambitious. Then they see struggles, all sorts of strife and pain lurking by the doorway, asking if we would like to come in. We do. Falling deeply into depths we pray will not leave us powerless. Not when we know what lies within us, all that cries out to arise from these depths we find ourselves in. We do, reaching for the skies above, hoping this wasn’t a dream. Dreams are always wasted if you don’t dream again. So we do, dreaming still that what lies hidden, everything under and in between the lines, remain unbroken, unfettered, unafraid, now that we touch all that aches within us.
The night air this Monday night stirs up new feelings within me. Call it nervousness, uncertain feelings, wishing to hide underneath a blanket and wait for Wednesday night to come, when this restless hunger will fade into the night like a rapture. In search of synergy, I move with my baby, who darts in and out my room. Jump around as he jumps too. Perhaps this movement with him is what I needed most. Perhaps being together is all I need. May this movement that shows up everyday. Whether from a baby or the night air, carry you through like a talking drum, from this to that, along the road only love knows.
Being rooted in all I do is free. I know my roots. I know my struggles too. I have lived through their lessons. Freedom takes a long time. With despair and fear, and a sprinkling of failure buried deep within. I have seen darkness of what it means to work. Roots buried deep only know dark. They know too that light takes time. I am beginning to know light. Both have taken a long time that I know first hand when the rain began to fall on me. I know too that you do not talk to a horse and wait for it’s reply. Whether it’s falling rain or neighing horses, I can testify that words are not enough to describe work. Neither are sentiments on papers. Only stories will do. Only the stories, with inward testimonies, of all the ways you reconciled shattered dreams with hopeful visions will do. Now that my roots pierce deeply into the soil, I look forward to shaming the devil as I speak my truth.
Ambition to me is tied to what Ngugi wa Thiongo once described as a ‘quest for relevance.’ It is a search for a liberating perspective within which to see ourselves clearly in relationship to ourselves and to the other selves in the universe. He would go on to suggest that this question depends on the choice of material and the attitude to or interrogation of that material. How we see things, even with our own eyes, is very much dependent on where we stand in relationship to it. To him, any strong desire to achieve or do something is inherently laced with a language of struggle. And this struggle starts even from the beginning.
Sustaining global health, becoming ambitious with whatever you choose to do in this field is all about taking a leap into the land of struggle. It’s that struggle that ultimately makes you begin wherever you are, do whatever you can, to become part of the generation crazy enough to think they can change the world. I am very ambitious with global health, naming it, sharing it, so that I not only see myself clearly but work with like minded people to make the global more relevant than ever, changing how we all see it too, one story at a time. And yes, it is full of struggles, full of thinking that I can really change the world with fully-funded projects that last. How I am working to mobilize people to embrace these crazy ideas with global health is at the heart of my upcoming talk on Tuesday April 26th. It’s my hope that if you join us, you may learn ways to sustain your crazy ideas with global health, even in the midst of storms.
The air tonight is magical and free. Dark skies light up the night as I sit waiting for words to say of this moment together. Maybe it’s the gentle breeze. It’s so soft. I am afraid the air won’t linger through the night. Then I recall your voice, the sweet communion of our embrace. You allow us to step into an oasis of light, brighter than the distant moon. I know that we were never meant to linger long together. But now we do as the softness of you is magical and free.
Lorraine Hansberry once wrote about how the Negro writer stands surrounded by whirling elements of the world. She noted that the writer stands neither on the fringe nor utterly involved: just a prime observer waiting poised for inclusion…yet, the world awaits our work. It is from this perspective that I intend write about the world as I see it. I also seek to write about us. To tell stories of myself, my people, everything that I see. My ask, come as you and see me learn to bear witness to all I know. I am learning these days that I do have something glorious to draw on begging for attention.