el amor libera/LOVE LIBERATES
I am grateful to have been loved
and to be loved now
and to be able to love,
because that liberates.
It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego.
When my son was born, I was seventeen.
My mother had a huge house, fourteen-room house,
At seventeen, I went to her and said, “I’m leaving.”
She asked me “you’re leaving my house?” and she had live-in help.
I said “yes. I’ve found a job and I’ve got a room
with cooking privileges down the hall
and the landlady will be the babysitter.
She asked me, “you’re leaving my house?”
I said “Yes, Ma’am,”
“And you’re taking the baby?”
I said yes.
She said “alright, remember this:
when you step over my doorsill, you’ve been raised.
You know the difference between right and wrong.
Don’t let anybody raise you and make you change.
And remember this:
You can always come home.”
I went home every time life slapped me down and made me call it uncle.
I went home with my baby.
My mother never once acted as “I told you so,”
She said, “Oh, baby’s home! Oh my darlin!
Mother’s gonna cook you something,
Mother’s gonna make this for you!”
She liberated me to life.
She continued to do that.
When my son may have been five years old
My mother would pick him up all the time and feed him.
I went to her once a month and she would cook for me.
So, one day I went to her house and she had cooked red rice, which I love.
After we finished eating, we walked down the hill and she started across the street and she said
“wait a minute, baby.”
I was twenty-two years old.
She said “wait a minute, baby,
you know, I think you’re the greatest woman I’ve ever met.
Mary McCleod Bethune,
and my mother.
You’re in that category.”
Then she said “give me a kiss”
I gave her a kiss and I got onto the streetcar.
I can remember the way the sun fell on the slats of wooden seats.
I sat there and I thought about her.
Suppose she’s right.
And she says she’s too mean to lie.
So suppose I am gonna be somebody.
She released me.
She freed me.
To say I may have something in me
that would be of value,
maybe not just to me,
When she was in her final sickness,
I went out to San Francisco.
The doctors said she had three weeks to live.
I asked her “would you come to North Carolina?”
She said “yes,”
She had emphysema and lung cancer.
I brought her to my home.
She lived for a year and a half.
And when she was finally, finally, in extremis,
she was on oxygen, fighting cancer for her life,
and I remembered her liberating me.
And I said “I hope I’ll be able to liberate her.”
She deserved that from me.
She deserved a great daughter and she got one.
So, in her last days, I said,
“ now I understand that some people need permission to go.
As I understand it, you may have done what God put you here to do:
You were a great worker.
You must have been a great lover because a lot of men
and, if I’m not wrong, maybe a couple of women risked their lives to love you.
You were a piss poor mother of small children,
but you were a great, great mother of young adults.
and if you need permission to go,
I liberate you.
I went back to my house
and something said “go back,”
I was in my pajamas,
I jumped in my car and ran.
And the nurse said,
“she’s just gone.”
You see, love liberates.
It doesn’t bind.
Love says, “I love you,
I love you if you’re in China,
I love you if you’re across town,
I love you if you’re in Harlem,
I love you.
I would like to be near you.
I’d like to have your arms around me,
I’d like to hear your voice in my ear,
but that’s not possible now,
so I love you.