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A Woman of No Rank

By Casey Hayden

Thanks for the inquiry about the movie Selma. I used to avoid all media about the movement. The stuff never rang true. Then I realized these treatments were just takes on an imagined past; they're not about my reality.

I saw the movie yesterday. My favorite part was the old black and white film, in which the funk and poverty appeared, a burst of truth inside the Hollywood gloss. I loved the experience of the movie, wept copiously. I have lots of gossipy comments: casting, script, accuracy. Too mundane.

Perhaps Daniel Berrigan will do:

These many beautiful days cannot be lived again

but they are compounded in my own flesh and spirit.

and I take them in full measure toward whatever lies ahead.


For me, however, the grace found in the past was sometimes more gritty:

white girl

people ask me about the Selma movie
because i was in the south around that time,
was it really like that?

i’m trying to remember

i remember riding hidden on the floor of a car from Atlanta
over to the first annual greenwood mississippi freedom folk festival
summer of 63

a filthy single bathroom in the back of a gas station
way out in the boonies of Alabama:
i didn’t use white only facilities

as I came out an old black man was coming in
as soon as he saw me he turned and ran
he couldn’t run very fast because he was so old

i remember a fragment of
ronnie dugger’s poem in college day austin:
.....and we will weaken
.....and regret
.....and pray the sound arrest the form
.....and we will not be pure

I was undone, so sorry to have caused that man’s fear. I understood as never before or after what a danger I was to all blacks in the movement, especially the men, and what largesse and courage it took to include me in their movement.

I had lunch a few weeks ago with Sue Moon. Freedom Summer volunteer. She wrote the book Tofu Roshi. She's in Everyday Zen Sangha out in CA, and used to edit Turning Wheel, the journal of engaged buddhism. I used to send her poems for it. She has a new book out, The Hidden Lamp. It's 100 stories of women's enlightenment with comments by American women buddhist teachers, mostly zen, with turning questions by the editors of the book at the end of each, as in turning the wheel of dharma. I opened at random to a story called “Yu Uses Her Full Strength,” referring to Yu’s answer to the master’s asking “Which of you is the person of no rank?" The questions after the commentary on the story read: "What happens when we deeply see something and are thereby taken beyond the cultural norms and expectations of others? Where do we stand then?"


From January, 2015

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