Saturday, September 13, 2008

Silenced No More

Odd, how life in dreams can be. Anything is possible. One night, in a dream, I was “visited” by a black, lesbian poet. By “visited” I mean I was a black, lesbian poet – feeling all of the outsiderness of being a black, lesbian poet in mainstream america. Being inhabited by “another” is a deep way to connect, to feel; and what that dream brought to me was all the feeling of the depth of the experience of being an outsider.

Coincidentally (?), a couple of weeks later in my waking life, Audre Lord, a black, lesbian poet found me. She was a new discovery to me through a book that practically jumped off of the public library bookshelves and into my hands called 'The Cancer Journals'. She wrote this book back in 1980 born out of her personal experiences, and although outwardly her background and experiences were far different from my own, inwardly, I found we had more in common than different -- the shared commonness of having 'fallen down the rabbit-hole'.

Cancer - the great equalizer. The truly equal opportunity employer that doesn't show preferential treatment as it sweeps through the population, touching almost half of us at one time or another. Half of us. Think about it. A daunting statistic most people don't know until they themselves are touched. Once fallen, we find ourselves in a very dark place, but upon looking more closely, as our eyes adjust to the darkness we find footsteps, paths made by those who have gone before.

I found Audre Lorde's very clear footsteps down there. With her words like a machete, she cleared a path for me to follow - reminding me: we're not alone. We're never alone. Just follow the footsteps.

I was gifted when I first had that dream that alerted me. I was further gifted when I recognized her arrival into my life and her words lit my path; when she so honestly shared her fears with me, not always being brave and courageous, but human; human in the rawness of her vulnerability - our shared vulnerability.

I hope and work to listen to her call, to rise above the fears that want to swallow me, that want to swallow all of us into powerlessness and silence, whatever the circumstances of what might feel like our own very dark rabbit-hole.

In 'The Cancer Journals' she writes:

“I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silence had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.”

"Sometimes fear stalks me like another malignancy, sapping energy and power and attention from my work. A cold becomes sinister; a cough, lung cancer; a bruise, leukemia. Those fears are most powerful when they are not given voice, and close upon their heels comes the fury that I cannot shake them. I am learning to live beyond fear by living through it, and in the process learning to turn fury at my own limitations into some more creative energy. I realize that if I wait until I am no longer afraid to act, write, speak, be, I'll be sending messages on a ouija board, cryptic complaints from the other side. When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less important whether or not I am unafraid."


“May these words serve as encouragement for others to speak and to act out of our experiences with cancer and other threats of death, for silence has never brought us anything of worth.”

She wrote these brave words in 1979-80, when there weren’t the open conversations and supports that exist in the world today, and if this old dawg, el poquito, can find solace and inspiration in a breast cancer/mastectomy survivor's testimony, then probably most others can, too. Some of our strengths lie in our diversity of experiences outside of our own, where we find we are a lot more the same than different.

Thank you, Audre. I am no longer silent.


Sandi said...

I love Audre. Tell you what I believe: Everybody's silence might just kill someone. How many women died because other women with breast cancer never spoke, kept it tucked away like an ugly secret? When the beast tapped me on the shoulder, I realized that no one talked much about the treatments. I was always stunned (and traumatized once or twice) by the things that were done to me. I am now a one woman local campaign to let newly diagnosed cancer people know what to expect. It's the least I can do. Silence can cause pain.

unaffiliated said...

If this has been you silent, all these years, I totally look forward to you not being silent! I welcome you being totally in your power and strength, even if your body isn't always matching it these days.
All these years working in hospice, those honest (non-silent) conversations have been some of the most real moments of my life. Very powerful.
-Linda Diane

tarzan said...

Your Words

I am hungry and there lies
A beautiful spread before me
A cloth to dress the table
A delicate plate to eat from
Elegance in the presentation
I open my mind to taste
I examine the flavors
I savor each morsel
Identifying the ingredients
Deciding which ones I like best
Which ones I want more of
Which ones to digest
Which ones I will experiment with
I hesitate to try new recipes
To taste the result I must
I read further and craved dessert
I lay the recipe book in front of me
And I light the oven

Thank YOU Ed & Audre

el poquito said...

sandi- what you say reminds me of the saying from AIDS activists: Silence = Death. A little corner of the world is made over when you speak and a light is shone on the path for those you speak out for.

Linda Diane - You make me chuckle. Yeah, guess I'm not known for holding back. But thanks for the encouragement to take it to the next level.

Tarzan - Your words... you paint a feast - a banquet before us. Thanks for coming to el poquito's table and adding style and elegance of a very real kind.

Thanks all for visiting and commenting. always nice to know I'm not just barking in the wind.

fondly, el p