from “Serious Poems”
Poems have to tell the truth
Which is world holding up time
They need to remind people of our sacred duty
To remember the captured people whom we called
To remember they believed in tomorrow
They believed in in us
They believed in the power of a serious poem
To carry our story forward
Poems are serious business
And only serious people
from “Jackie Robinson is Dead”
Thing get set
that cannot be
And if you touch
He will kick
from “I Am Mighty Mouse”
The reason I think I am Mighty Mouse is this:
Once upon a time a long time ago when I was a very young woman and had not at that time actually met Dr. Dorothy (Dottie) Height (1912-2010) she made me know how important it is for women to have confidence in each other.
Dorothy Height is one of the most astute political minds of the twentieth century. There are no major decisions made concerning Civil Rights that Dr. Height has not participated in.
What Dorothy Height decided: Dottie said to her aide “I must speak with our keynoter. I must make her or him understand what is at stake. Marge Schott must not be allowed to get away with this. Who is the speaker? Her aide called Cincinnatti to ask who is the keynoter. Nikki Giovanni she was told. The aide reported back to Dr. Height: it is Nikki Giovanni.
“Nikki?” asked Dottie. “Are you sure?” “Yes, Dr. Height, I am sure.” “Well then,” said the might one, “I’m going to bed. “Don’t you want to talk with her?” Height was asked. “Oh, no. Nikki will take care of it. Good night.”
What it meant: when I heard Dr. Dorothy Height had such faith in me that I would do the right thing I felt so proud I could have burst. I have always admired Dorothy Height and I am so proud to know she had confidence in me. I wanted to step onto that stage and say, “…here I come to save the day…” And I did make ESPN for the only time in my life. But mostly I knew the pride that comes from knowing Dorothy Height went to bed. Never worrying that I would carry the day.
I’ve been in board rooms and classrooms and green rooms. Read widely and well. Traveled and seen.
And I often feel ground down by the problems facing our nation, African Americans and my own ranch. The free floating rage from the radio and volatile friends who tell and retell their stories of going off as if they were badges of honor.
When I long for life changing sweetness, courageous kindness, and incisive gentleness I turn to music and poetry.
There is nothing like a skillful poet like Nikki Giovanni with her tangible, intelligent love for black people when you’re tired of the mud slinging and gender wars and cynicism and generation gaps, simple solutions and denial. Simplicity and elegance with an elfin grin.