On this day in 1978, over 900 men, women, and children ceased to exist.
I don’t typically celebrate these kinds of anniversaries. But I do know that I have need to say that they existed more than that they died. Just like we exist and will cease to. I hope we are all remembered by the lives we lead and that the way life leaves does not supercede that part.
The 900 people lived in Jonestown Guyana where for at least a time they laughed and danced; made love and savored good food.
While we tend to remember them as the circumstance of how they came to no longer exist, I think that is the marrow that is hard to extract from the bone. They were people like us.
Wrote a poem about it–well a whole book of ’em. Like to hear it? Here it goes:
As For Dancing, 4 July 1978
Thank you for fullness and hunger and sharing them both
like the silky dress I borrowed from Tawanda;
and for the day off tomorrow;
Afro sheen and spider lashes, his printed salute, at ease, in white jeans
and every lyric the Emotions belted
just before the lights came on; for sweat;
and for the letter from home that said, “I miss you,” and then,
“I’m waiting for the bus;”
for the sense to know waiting is not where it’s at;
for guests too full of chicken to walk the grounds
and who can only hear the sound
of the children at play; because I get to see them play;
and for those beautiful birds too
whose calls made me duck at first because I saw The Birds
and there are no phone booths here;
for taro on my toes and the work of want; for knowing how to do both;
and peanut butter fudge—sometimes—and tic-tac-toe with Tawanda,
beating her and laughing long after we should still be laughing
because it disturbs the others; and for Earth, Wind, and Fire;
because there is nothing better than a horn section’s fingertips
twisting my hips under a night sky’s strobes.