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Friday, January 20, 2006


Where is my brownskinned heart to hurry?

The title of a song written long ago ... and that has been playing in the back of my mind since yesterday. This morning I woke sobbing into my pillow. Why on earth ...? No meaning came -- only the music -- as if coming from another voice -- as if in a dream ... but muffled so that Dorian wouldn't wake and find me distressed. I could never have explained to her dimmed mind the cause of the tears -- I couldn't even explain them to myself. Last night I went to bed so elated! But I had spent much of the past two weeks swinging wildly between highs and lows -- the executions at San Quentin, the Martin Luther King celebration, and the honors being bestowed soon by the NWHP. Was this then what it means to be manic-depressive? Surely not, since these were all larger than life events and my feelings appropriate to each. I'd surely never had such a diagnosis, but could this be? More sobs. I lay still for a long time quieting myself in preparation for climbing out of bed and into my clothes for work. Surely this would pass soon. But I'm still here ... .

It was in those few moments of quiet that the lyrics began to come together with the music -- and the ephiphany!


I was late twenty-something and living in Walnut Creek. The racial hostility was at its worst and one of my little boys had been stoned by some teens shouting "nigger!" from a passing car as he was returning on our country road from Sam's market -- across the creek and a few blocks away. He wasn't badly hurt and came to me looking puzzled and frightened to ask why? There was no answer. He was so young. I couldn't tell him that I just didn't know. The feeling of helplessness is one that I recognize as being always there playing softly in the background of my life as mother -- over all the years -- freshening unexpectedly from time to time. Maybe that's true for every parent, but perhaps not quite to this extent.

Later that day, after hours of torment and doubt, I wrote this:

Where is my brownskinned heart to hurry?
Where will I find my song?
Why must my mind be just for worry?
To whom does my dream belong?

What are my hands to hold this morning?
Where is my place in the sun?
With what shall I fill this time of longing?
Whose will shall be done?

The fruit of my labor will tumble in soon
in search of my love and my lead
Gave all I had when they left this mornin'
Why can't they know how little souls bleed?

Where is my brownskinned heart to hurry?
To whom does my dream belong?
Why must my mind be just for worry?
Who will hear ...
my ...
song ......?


I recognized that same feeling of helplessness on the day, years later, when my now grownup son, Rick, asked tearfully why his partner, Gordon, was lying dead on a slab at the county morgue because his northeastern family would neither claim his body nor release it to us for burial? Gordon was white and Rick was not. They were a committed gay couple who'd been together for 18 years. We lived with that gruesome reality for the 30 days required by law before we could claim Gordon's remains and memorialize him. Rick was dead a little more than a year later.

All of that rushed into my mind this morning -- replacing the giddiness I'd experienced last night as I dropped off to blissful sleep with the honors front row and center.

The sobbing that wracked my body this morning suggests that I may finally be willing to give up my self-assigned role of being "...the only grownup in the room." That I cannot possibly change the basic wrongs of the world no matter how hard I try. That I never could. That no one of us can and that it may be time now to set the world back down on its axis and allow it to find its own way toward redemption.

But you know what?

There is unspeakable relief in knowing that someone may have finally heard my song! The recognition being bestowed in March will symbolize this for me. Makes me wonder about the journeys taken by the other women with whom this honor will be shared. I so look forward to learning more about each of them.

Perhaps the tears were some indication of the power of releasing all that unspent pain.

Maybe I've finally exhaled.



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