THE WOMEN GATHER (for Joe Strickland) by Nikki Giovanni.
The women gather because it is not unusual to seek comfort in our hours of stress.
A man must be buried.
It is not unusual that the old bury the young though it is an abomination.
It is not strange that the unwise and the ungentle carry the banner of humaneness though it is a castration of the spirit.
It no longer shatters the intellect that those who make war call themselves diplomats.
We are no longer surprised that the unfaithful pray loudest every Sunday in church and sometimes in rooms facing east though it is a sin and a shame.
So how do we judge a man.
Most of us love from our need to love not because we find someone deserving.
Most of us forgive because we have trespassed not because we are magnanimous.
Most of us comfort because we need comforting, our ancient rituals demand that we give what we hope to receive.
And how do we judge a man.
We learn to greet when meeting, to cry when parting and to soften our words at times of stress.
The women gather with cloth and ointment, their busy hands bowing to laws that decree willows shall stand swaying but unbroken against even the determined wind of death.
We judge a man by his dreams, not alone his deeds.
We judge a man by his intent, not alone his shortcomings.
We judge a man because it is not unusual to know him through those who love him.
The women gather strangers to each other because they have loved a man.
It is not unusual to sift through ashes and find an unburnt picture...