“i never stopped loving no / one” –etheridge knight

BIRTHDAY POEM
The sun rose today, and
The sun went down
Over the trees beyond the river;
No crashing thunder
Nor jagged lightning
Flashed my forty-four years across
The heavens. I am here.
I am alone. With the Indianapolis / News
Sitting, under this indiana sky
I lean against a gravestone and feel
The warm wine on my tongue.
My eyes move along the corridors
Of the stars, searching
For a sign, for a certainty
As definite as the cold concrete
Pressing against my back.
Still the stars mock
Me and the moon is my judge.
But only the moon.
‘Cause I ain’t screwed no thumbs
Nor dropped no bombs—
Tho my name is naughty to the ears of some
And I ain’t revealed the secrets of my brothers
Tho my balls’ve / been pinched
And my back’s / been / scarred—
And I ain’t never stopped loving no / one
O I never stopped loving no / one
                                                                       Indianapolis, Indiana
                                                                      April 19, 1975
-Etheridge Knight

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This poem echoes in my head as a daily mantra, particularly the last stanza, in which Knight gives us two of the most beautiful poetic lines I know of:

And I ain’t never stopped loving no / one

O I never stopped loving no / one

These lines bring strength to my heart and remind me of my dignity. When I recall the lyric phrase, “I never stopped loving no / one” I think how that’s true for me–and gain a sense of reclaiming.  Because if we can say that much for ourselves, maybe there’s hope for the world.

To never stop loving, to never cast anyone aside—is a revolutionary act.  A society that teaches it’s ok to put ourselves above others—other socioeconomic groups, other races, other countries, other sexualities, other genders—is out of skew.  So few of us receive unconditional love, yet it’s something all of us need.  To forsake anyone is to forsake ourselves.

The speaker in this poem turns the other cheek. He’s saying he’s been beaten before, he’s been molested—but he refuses to cast such hatred and violence against another. He will not dishonor his brother, torture people, or drop bombs. He chooses love.

I admire the tightness and music of Knight’s lines, and the efficiency of his syntax. “Cause I ain’t screwed no thumbs” brings a visceral image of torture and a declaration against such brutality, in just six syllables. Subtle, sensual images like “The warm wine on my tongue” let us anchor ourselves in the slightly buzzed euphoria & lonesome soul searching of the narrator.

This poem begins with a primordial ceremony—the rising and setting of the sun, which ushers in all births and deaths each day. Reverence for the solar system is established, yet the speaker says there is nothing especially striking about this day–the anniversary of his birth.  He has humbled himself to his place in the universe–his role in the “the corridors of the stars.” And he acknowledges the dead and eternity by celebrating his birth in a graveyard. Though lonesome under the stars, it’s consoling that the moon cannot judge him too harshly because he’s never turned to the wrongness of dropping bombs or ratting out a friend.  He “never stopped loving no / one.”  The lines sing.

The pause indicated by “/” after “no” accentuates the word “one,” and brings to mind oneness. I think it is the egolessness that comes to mind from “O I never stopped loving no / one”– the oneness, a power invoked by continuing to love everyone in our lives no matter what despair and torture the world faces us with—that makes the last stanza of this poem such a powerful mantra.

Neil Young Honor the Treaties tour

Musician, poet, activist and truth teller Neil Young speaks poignantly about why he decided to go on tour to raise money to help First Nations indigenous Canadian people fight corporate controlled government, in order to ensure the health of the earth and well being of future generations.

Explanation of indigenous human and environmental rights and violations being committed by Canadian government:

Esther Attean & Denise Altvater : Heroes for truth, justice, equality & healing

Deeply inspired by the bravery, strength, vision and dedication of these righteous Passamaquoddy women…

esther_attean

Esther Attean

Teacher, Activist, Social Worker, Co-Founder of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission process: b. 1968

“For native people forced assimilation and acculturation distort our thoughts, feelings and actions creating a disconnect with our identity and traditions. We start to believe that there is something wrong with us. The truth is our resilience, strength, humor and intelligence have saved us from extinction, will enable us to heal from generational trauma and will restore our culture so we may thrive as the distinct, unique, beautiful people the Creator meant for us to be.”

 

denisealtvaterportraitbyrobertshetterlylowres

Denise Altvater

Activist, Community Organizer, Co-Founder of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission process : b. 1959

“Having a place where my voice can be heard has changed my life dramatically, helping me to heal and giving me the strength to forgive. I still struggle to find a place in this world where I feel I belong. I believe I will find that place of belonging when I let people see who I really am, not only the truth of what has been done to me but what I have done to others. By acknowledging and sharing my truth, taking responsibility and seeking forgiveness, I can show my beautiful children, my family and my people that we can restore our hearts, minds and souls.”

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Esther Attean and Denise Altvater’s portraits were painted by Robert Shetterly as part of the Americans Who Tell the Truth project and unveiled at the Maine State House today.

For more information on the groundbreaking, invaluable work these women are doing with the Maine-Wabanki TRC:

http://mainewabanakireach.org

http://www.mainewabanakitrc.org/#&panel1-1

Mi’kmaq Willi Nolan defends the earth, women, humanity & seeks to ban fracking

In these videos Willi Nolan speaks eloquently about why it’s abhorrent that oil and gas companies are trying to force their way into Wabanaki territories in New Brunswick.  Fracking poisons the water and pollutes the sky and earth in the name of shortsighted greed.  Nolan beautifully defends the earth, women and humanity and talks about injustice and oppression towards the land and first nations people that activists are working tirelessly to challenge.  The truth is the light, righteousness is victory, “the forest and the water will be protected…no more poisons.”

A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry

I learned about Lorraine Hansberry through the great songwriter, musician, performer and civil rights activist hero Nina Simone.  Hansberry, a genius playwright who died at age 34, was one of the first people who inspired Simone to work for social justice and the rights of black people.

Hansberry’s groundbreaking play A Raisin in the Sun is a brilliant, stunning work of art, as well as important social commentary on the oppression of minorities and the need for compassion that transcends human constructed barriers.  Such assets of literature are still highly relevant 55 years after A Raisin in the Sun’s debut.

The title of the play, and perhaps the premise, comes from the Langston Hughes poem “A Dream Deferred.”

 
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat
Or crust and sugar over—
Like a syrupy sweet?
 
Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.
 
Or does it explode?
 

Hansberry asks the same questions as Hughes’ poem in A Raisin in the Sun, a drama both captivating and heart-wrenching in its realistic depiction of the lives of a hard-working yet impoverished black family living in cold war era Chicago.  A Raisin in the Sun centers around the dreams each family member has for a better life—dreams that are hungry for progress & growth, desperate for survival & self-worth.  Ultimately it is the communal, life-giving dream of the family matriarch, Mama, which brings understanding, strength, perseverance and dignity to a family hindered by circumstances–victims of racism, poverty and bad luck.

Every line in the A Raisin in the Sun serves to show insight into the characters of the family and adds to the construction of scene and setting, such as in the following passage portraying Mama’s messages of love:

“There is always something left to love.  And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing…Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most?  When they done good and made things easy for everybody?   Well then, you ain’t through learning—because that ain’t the time at all.  It’s when he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in hisself ‘cause the world done whipped him so!  When you starts measuring somebody, measure him right, child, measure him right.  Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is.”

The speaker, Mama, is an emblem of a family structure that holds love above all else, allowing self-respect and humanity to prevail.

Hansberry’s play shows that amidst a world of hypocrisy, hatred and apathy, we can overcome the most daunting trials through love for one another, understanding, solidarity and being true to ourselves, our families, and a greater good.  We may be broke and have nothing material in this world, but strength comes through maintaining dignity and being able to hold our heads high with satisfied minds.

REVIEW: GIFT FOR THE END

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Review: “Gift For The End,” by Mariee Sioux

Mariee Sioux makes gentle music that encapsulates the fierceness of the wild.  Her latest album Gift for the End inspires the sensuous and provides instruction for returning to the earth and intimate realities of the animals.  The first track titled “Homeopathic” is a perfect entryway to an album that cleans us with natural healing remedies and entrances us in melodies for the ride.

One of the most stunning aspects of Gift for the End is the visionary poetics of Mariee Sioux’s lyrics—the singsong cadences, refrains, fresh language, chant incantations, and truth telling encircles the heart with illuminated galaxies.  Sioux knows about transformation.  How a fawn can turn into a raven, creating the world.  Her songs are sympathetic to the animals, insects, and trees, sensitive perspectives necessary to the survival of the planet.  

Even if listeners don’t pay close attention to the messages in Sioux’s lyrics, they can still receive benediction thru the flying, seed-sowing, and animal sounds found throughout the album.  Sioux’s style is acoustic folk—front porch dream roots blended with ethereal stargaze.  Her sound is unique, but Gift to the Endbrings to mind other artists who are aware they arose from the sea and sand, like Death Vessel, Beachwood Sparks, and the Tallest Man on Earth.

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A standout of Gift for the End is “Old Magic,” which describes a western world that’s replaced the old magic of cultures and creatures who live on the earth without destroying it for a world of plastic deer and tarps.  This paradigm is articulated in the lines:

We ran through the mule shadows
Hand in hand sorrows in sorrows
Chased by plastic deer and tarp spirits
Tripping over tools and sleeping bullets
Years of dusty praying
You picked a pouch off of your dad’s tree
Poured it in my mouth to show me
How he’d saved all of your baby teeth

You said “Special fears they always win”
Like a river been robbed of its bend
A braid you just don’t want to end

Nature has been robbed like generations of dreams hanging from the tree of life, like a river that’s lost its bend because a dam flooded it, like forests replaced with coins, dead streams, bullet-riddled bodies and petroleum.  

Mariee Sioux’s music is healing in how it parallels assaults against the earth with honoring the holy beauty of non-human creatures.  The personifying of animals present in Sioux’s songwriting is a crucial truth.  It leads the way for consciousness shifts in which our chants, poems, guitar playing and entering the bodies of fish & birds brings us back to reciprocal relationships and the ever present divine.  

In giving voice to nature and envisioning the reclaiming of magic, Sioux’s music has the power to make sensual scenes from her songs arise in our surroundings.  I saw a key hanging from a tree this morning.  

As glaciers melt, fires burn, species go extinct, and numerous other human-led apocalyptic visions emerge, Sioux’s music is a prayer for the wild, a sincere gift for restoring a world where life is valued and protected, even as one sees a polluted horizon become nearer.    

Mariee Sioux rebuilds the goddess rib by rib on Gift for the End and asks her to please take us back into her realm, we need her direly.

we can be forever blessed if we take the back roads. –mariee sioux

https://soundcloud.com/almostmusique/mariee-sioux-homeopathic

https://soundcloud.com/almostmusique/mariee-sioux-ghosts-in-my

Review by Lisa Panepinto

Originally published on Cabildo Quarterly