Monday, July 28, 2008

you are the greatest woman I have ever met

And she continued . . .

It is true that it is a powerful occurrence to have somebody look you in the eye and say you are worth something. I was reading an issue of Smithsonian magazine the other day and in it was an interview with the poet Maya Angelou. In the interview she talked about the time, as only an eight-year-old girl, that she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. She spoke about having to heal from the crime, but also about how she told on the man, and how he had gone to prison and, shortly after being released, was beaten to death by men in the community. Angelou believes she was the one who caused the man’s death because she told about the rape. I was amazed to read that after the beating, the terrified young child couldn’t speak for years. It was much later, during a walk with her mother, that she would find the source of her life of freedom, beauty, and creativity. Walking down a street near their home, Angelou said her mother stopped, turned, and said to her:

“Baby,” she said, looking the young woman in the eye. “You know something? I think you are the greatest woman I have ever met. Yes. Mary McLeod Bethune, Eleanor Roosevelt, my mother, and you—and you are the greatest.” Maya Angelou said in the interview that she boarded a streetcar with tears flowing down her cheeks, stared into the wood paneling of the car and thought to herself, Suppose I really am somebody?

And yes, she was and is somebody.

which, again, is Donald Miller translating. So here's Maya Angelou, and others translating too:

Yadaʻti lamah ha-tsipor ha-keluʼah sharah
by Maya Angelou, Dafnah Leṿi

Utae, tobenai toritachiyo
by Maya Angelou, Midori Yajima

Je reprendrais bien un peu de rêve

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Watashi no tabi ni nimotsu wa mō iranai

Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now

Ta dynata poulia tēs epangelias
By Maya Angelou, Kōstia Kontoleōn

Samlas i mitt namn

Gather Together in My Name

En kvinnas hjärta
By Maya Angelou, Pelle Fritz-Crone

The Heart of A Woman

. . . Speaking only a few words of English, Mongo taught me the song syllable by syllable. Although he couldn't translate the lyrics, he said the song was used in black Cuban religious ritual. . .

. . . The trip was riotous. Many passengers were incensed that four white men and a black woman were laughing and drinking together, and their displeasure pushed us toward silliness. I asked Liam to translate a Gaelic song that I had heard him sing a cappella. He said he'd sing it first. His clear tenor floated up over the heads of the already-irate passengers. The haunting beauty of the melody must have quelled some of the irritation, because no one asked Liam to shut up. . .

A Pledge to Rescue Our Youth
"you are the best we have"
by Maya Angelou

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