We Had Him

Back in January when we were preparing for the presidential inauguration and everyone was talking about ceremonial poems, a friend mentioned that she thought Maya Angelou brought the perfect amount of grand gesture and sentiment to a ceremonial poem to make it work. I don't remember the poem that Angelou read for Bill Clinton's inauguration, but I really liked what she wrote for the Michael Jackson memorial service. Here is the text of that poem(without the author's original line breaks, stanza breaks, or punctuation):

We Had Him

by Maya Angelou

Beloveds, now we know
that we know nothing,
now that our bright and shining star
can slip away from our fingertips
like a puff of summer wind.
Without notice, our dear love
can escape our doting embrace,
sing our songs among the stars
and walk our dances
across the face of the moon.
In the instant we learn
that Michael is gone,
we know nothing,
no clocks can tell our time
and no oceans can rush our tides.
With the abrupt absence of our treasure,
though we are many,
each of us is achingly alone,
piercingly alone.
Only when we confess our confusion
can we remember that he was a gift to us,
and we did have him.

He came to us from the Creator
trailing creativity in abundance.
Despite the anguish of life,
he was sheathed in mother love
and family love, and survived,
and did more than that: he thrived
with passion and compassion
humor and style.
We had him, whether we knew who he was
or did not know,
he was ours and we were his.
We had him, beautiful,
delighting our eyes.
He raked his hat slant over his brow
and took a pose on his toes
for all of us, and we laughed
and stomped our feet for him.
We were enchanted with his passion
because he held nothing,
he gave us all he had been given.
Today, in Tokyo,
beneath the Eiffel Tower,
in Ghana's Black Star Square,
in Johannesburg and Pittsburgh,
in Birmingham, Alabama and
Birmingham, England
we are missing Michael Jackson
but we do know we had him
and we are the world.

To see the video of Queen Latifah reading this poem at the memorial service, go here.

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