By Ernie McCray
With all the talk about
race, of late,
I recall lessons learned
a long time ago
that enabled me to alter
my emotional state
when it comes to matters of race.
I would occasionally, with tears in my eyes,
ask my mother who was loving and wise,
why some white people were so mean.
What had I done to them,
I wanted so much to have explained,
to make them look at me
with their bodies all quivery
at the very sight of me,
in such a way as if they had chugged
raw lemon juice
from a pint sized mug.
She’d give me a hug,
and say something like:
“Child, I don’t know, truthfully.
It just seems that some people obviously
can go about their lives with no sense
of tenderness or decency
and think of themselves
as above folks
like you and me.
I’m so sorry that waiter
wouldn’t serve you
and called you a name.
But that’s his own burden,
his own shame.”
And then she was likely
to grab a 78,
and gently place the needle down
for it to play
and our little duplex would suddenly be
filled with the sounds of musical artists from
Count Basie to Tommy Dorsey
to Sammy Kaye to Billie Holiday.
And the poetry, and the melodies
and the riffs and changes
played in a variety of keys,
would almost immediately
send my pain away.
Beauty, I came to realize, can save the day.
And from what my grandfather,
when he would take me under his wings,
had to say in regards to my querying,
that instead of lingering
on those who are mean,
I’d get more out of life in the company
of kind loving
care about all of humanity’s
He’d say: “There are many beautiful people,
son, who are well meaning.
They come in all colors and ways of seeing.
Look around for the Beauty
that surrounds all human beings.”
So Beauty, I found, can be touched like a work of art
and heard when birds sing,
and it can be smelled and tasted
in a multitude of guises:
leaves swinging and swaying
in a gentle breeze;
a sexy being
sauntering tantalizingly down the street
ever so rhythmically and at ease;
snow capped mountains
in a desert scene.
And I’m reminded of a stretch of mountains,
The Santa Catalinas,
that expanded my learned fascination with Beauty.
When my simple hopes and dreams,
like of swimming in any pool,
or going to any school,
or walking down the street
without some “serve and protect” fool
messing with me when all I was trying to do
was look cool –
when such as all that seemed
so overly flooded with despair,
I would look at that mountain
that stood so tall and proud
and I would breathe in deeply
the scorching air of summer
or the dry cold winter air –
it was all, to me, in those moments,
the freshest of air
as my mind
would fly like an eagle over those magnificent peaks
and leave Jim Crow behind.
And, in this new world,
beyond the mountains’ range,
I would view, in my fancy, Beauty
as far as I could see,
a world where everyone
was at liberty
to simply be
who they were meant to be,
I learned in my travels of fantasy
over a mountaintop
that Beauty can be dreamed
in the face of society’s hateful schemes,
dreams combined with
actions that stand in the face
of such happenings.
So when a young brother in one gang
loses his life at the hands of someone like him
in a rival gang,
or when more and more of them fail
in school and end up in jail
or they are hailed
and asked for ID’s
and then shot down unarmed in the streets,
I take moments to dream dreams
flowers in a field,
gentle spring rains,
red soiled terrain,
sunrises and sunsets,
a children at play scene…
And then fortified with images
both powerful and serene,
I join those who dare
to row the boats of change upstream
to alter the further erosion
of a people’s hopes and dreams.
Beauty makes my spirit sing
of the good human beings
if our minds and hearts
in such things.
To that I say,
Let Beauty ring.
John Lawrence says
Amazing. Thank God for good parents and people who cared.
Thank you, Ernie, your writing touches me. I revel in your ability to allow me to feel such beauty in our lives and our surroundings. I never met your mother but I love her. And now I love your grandfather too.
Ernie: Thank you!!!!!!!! Sandra Foster-King
Bob "Hubba Jubba" Moss says
HI ERNIE: WHEN I GROW UP
I WANT 2 – B JUST LIKE U1
What wonders your words bring.
Such an inspiring thing.
Makes my want to sing:
What a thrill to see beauty ring!
My family made beauty ring.
School days let beauty ring.
Games won or lost; I heard beauty ring.
Mentoring feats of joy let’s beauty ring.
My student’s success made beauty ring.
Listen … as I age I hear more beauty ring.
Thanks McCray, your poetry makes beauty ring!!!
Bob "Hubba Jubba" Moss says
In spite of my few grammar errs above; Let beauty ring!!!
Ernie McCray says
As usual, you’ve scored a “ringer” with this one! Write on, my homie, “right on!”
Hey Ernie…loved this piece and wonder if you know the ceremonial Navajo song “Walk in Beauty” … and this great interpretation by Tilbah Begay?
Ernie McCray says
I just listened to the song. It is quite a lovely “Walk in Beauty.”
Thank you Ernie for continuing to enlighten us and bring to the forfront that there are good, caring people, you are at the top of that list.
Write on man!