Gifts from the Earth and “A Brave and Startling Truth”

Today’s poem is a little lengthy, but it is worth the read. “A Brave and Startling Truth” was written by one of America’s favorite sages, Maya Angelou (1928-2014). She wrote the poem to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations (1995), but when I saw an excerpt of the poem used in an Earth Day activity, I thought why not share the whole poem today.

After reading the poem, be sure to go to Earth Stanzas and write your own Earth Day poem. The activity comes complete with prompts and model poems.

A Brave and Startling Truth
Maya Angelou

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn and scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.


About the images: I had a bit of Photoshop fun with today’s images. Each photo subject is a gift from the earth. I will eventually share the original images. Until then, do you have any idea what they are? No? Well, I’m pretty sure you can [generally] guess this one:

15 thoughts on “Gifts from the Earth and “A Brave and Startling Truth”

  1. Adelaide Dupont says:

    “When we come to it” – oh so powerful.

    Angelou was brilliant and transcendant.

    And, yes, we are the people of the gun and the dagger.

    There is another way …

    Possible and imperative!

    Thinking of how Maya Angelou and Jessica Mitford worked very closely together [this didn’t quite get to my Halfway up Rysy Peak post but it was taken in the Lovell biography] for socialist and communist causes and of course CIVIL RIGHTS.

    Maya was a real sister – a soul sister.

    I think some of the images may originally have stemmed from flowers.

    I think the bottom one may be a tulip.

    Thanks for the Earth Day activity, Chandra!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chandra Lynn says:

      Thanks for loving Maya and her message. And said in a kiddie-sassy tone, “I’m not revealing the answers just yet.” In a week or two through the original photos. Thanks, too, for dropping in. I have bookmarked your blog to read some of your poetry this evening. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. revruss1220 says:

    What a delicious feast you served up today!
    It is so rich it has to be consumed slowly and savored.
    The poem and the images pair perfectly… like a great wine with a gourmet meal.
    Are they all flowers?

    Thank you for this amazing gift. It is nourishment for the soul for anyone who partakes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. TravelerInMe says:

    When we come to it
    We must confess that we are the possible
    We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
    That is when, and only when
    We come to it.

    ………. perfectly worded. I hope ‘we’ understand this soon.

    Soulful post Chandra!

    Liked by 1 person

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