You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes? Shoulders falling down like teardrops. Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you? Don’t you take it awful hard ‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise That I dance like I’ve got diamonds At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame I rise Up from a past that’s rooted in pain I rise I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise I rise I rise.
Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favour fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice.
There’s an ebook revolution of sorts happening out there, which I am stubbornly resisting. I tried ebooks, still read them sometimes, but there’s something about a real, physical book that an electronic version just cannot replace. The smell, the feel, the notes scribbled in the margins.
Billy Collins captures this love I feel beautifully in Marginalia. Enjoy!
Sometimes the notes are ferocious, skirmishes against the author raging along the borders of every page in tiny black script. If I could just get my hands on you, Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O’Brien, they seem to say, I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head. Other comments are more offhand, dismissive – “Nonsense.” “Please!” “HA!!” – that kind of thing. I remember once looking up from my reading, my thumb as a bookmark, trying to imagine what the person must look like why wrote “Don’t be a ninny” alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson. Students are more modest needing to leave only their splayed footprints along the shore of the page. One scrawls “Metaphor” next to a stanza of Eliot’s. Another notes the presence of “Irony” fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal. Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers, Hands cupped around their mouths. “Absolutely,” they shout to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin. “Yes.” “Bull’s-eye.” “My man!” Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points rain down along the sidelines. And if you have managed to graduate from college without ever having written “Man vs. Nature” in a margin, perhaps now is the time to take one step forward. We have all seized the white perimeter as our own and reached for a pen if only to show we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages; we pressed a thought into the wayside, planted an impression along the verge. Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria jotted along the borders of the Gospels brief asides about the pains of copying, a bird signing near their window, or the sunlight that illuminated their page- anonymous men catching a ride into the future on a vessel more lasting than themselves. And you have not read Joshua Reynolds, they say, until you have read him enwreathed with Blake’s furious scribbling. Yet the one I think of most often, the one that dangles from me like a locket, was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye I borrowed from the local library one slow, hot summer. I was just beginning high school then, reading books on a davenport in my parents’ living room, and I cannot tell you how vastly my loneliness was deepened, how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed, when I found on one page A few greasy looking smears and next to them, written in soft pencil- by a beautiful girl, I could tell, whom I would never meet- “Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.”
TIGER, tiger, burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare seize the fire? And what shoulder and what art Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand and what dread feet?
What the hammer, what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? What dread grasp Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears, And water’d heaven with their tears, Did He smile His work to see? Did He who made the lamb make thee?
Tiger, tiger, burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way Where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say.
May these vows and this marriage be blessed. May it be sweet milk, this marriage, like wine and halvah. May this marriage offer fruit and shade like the date palm. May this marriage be full of laughter, our every day a day in paradise. May this marriage be a sign of compassion, a seal of happiness here and hereafter. May this marriage have a fair face and a good name, an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky. I am out of words to describe how spirit mingles in this marriage.
Because of you, in gardens of blossoming flowers I ache from the perfumes of spring. I have forgotten your face, I no longer remember your hands; how did your lips feel on mine? Because of you, I love the white statues drowsing in the parks, the white statues that have neither voice nor sight. I have forgotten your voice, your happy voice; I have forgotten your eyes. Like a flower to its perfume, I am bound to my vague memory of you. I live with pain that is like a wound; if you touch me, you will do me irreparable harm. Your caresses enfold me, like climbing vines on melancholy walls. I have forgotten your love, yet I seem to glimpse you in every window. Because of you, the heady perfumes of summer pain me; because of you, I again seek out the signs that precipitate desires: shooting stars, falling objects.