Saturday, June 25, 2011

Climbin' On, and Reachin' Landin's, and Turnin' Corners: Yesterday's Victory in New York

An historic day.  A day of jubilation.   

I begin the day listening to the voice of a gay man who died in 1967, not ever having felt able, somehow, to tell the world who he was in the innermost recesses of his being.  To tell the world whom he loved.  How his heart loved in that specific intimate way of heart speaking to heart for which every human being longs.  Which poets have made a primary theme of their poetry throughout history.

The love of one human being for another, for a soul-mate and complement (the other half of our soul, Augustine called it, following Plato) who allows our own souls to escape the prison of lonely solipsism and soar with the knowledge that someone somewhere understands.  And cares. 

Langston Hughes was a gay African-American poet who died in 1967 in the largest city of the state that, yesterday, chose to do the right thing, for a change, to those whose loves have been too long denied, whose hopes have been too frequently dashed by cruel defenders of "family" and "morality" who are really all about hate and not about love at all.  And not about morality at all--not in the most fundamental and unalloyed sense of that word.

Langston Hughes died not having seen yesterday's victory for love and justice for which he himself struggled, though even today, those who cannot, will not, accept that an African-American man can be gay--and that the font from which this astonishingly powerful poet's poetry flowed was, quite specifically, his experience of being a gay black man--like to pretend that Hughes was asexual.  Disinterested in love, since the possibility of his having loved other men (which is well attested in documents he left behind) is unthinkable for them.

Through the magic of the internet, however, Hughes is still alive.  And we can hear his voice, anywhere in the world where we have access to the internet.  We can hear Langston Hughes reading* his magisterial poem about continuing to struggle and to hope, about not giving up, about following the lead of heroic people of hope and faith who have climbed the stairs ahead of us.

About sometimes--jubilation!--having a day or so to sit on the landing we've just reached, and look back, and see that, though we still have stairs to climb, how far we've already come!  And how much we can celebrate at this temporary place of rest and celebration.

As we gather our breath for the next step.  And the next. 

With Langston Hughes, with everyone else climbing the staircase to justice, hope, and above all, love--the possibility of love for everyone--I intend to keep

a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners, 

Though for a day or so, by God and all that's holy, I intend to sit a spell on this landing and celebrate!

*This audio recording is from Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.  

The graphic is a watercolor Steve and I have, by South Carolina artist Jeffery Callaham, who's a  friend of a friend of mine and, in addition to being a wonderful artist, a first-rate human being.

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