Classic Poetry Series Maya Angelou


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Classic Poetry Series

 

 



 

 

 



 

 

 



Maya Angelou

- poems -

 

 

 



 

Publication Date:

 2012

 

 



Publisher:

Poemhunter.com - The World's Poetry Archive



Maya Angelou(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)

 

(born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928) was an American author and



poet who has been called "America's most visible black female autobiographer"

by scholar Joanne M. Braxton. She is best known for her series of six

autobiographical volumes, which focus on her childhood and early adult

experiences. The first and most highly acclaimed, I Know Why the Caged Bird

Sings (1969), tells of her first seventeen years. It brought her international

recognition, and was nominated for a National Book Award. She has been

awarded over 30 honorary degrees and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her

1971 volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie.

 

Angelou was a member of the Harlem Writers Guild in the late 1950s, was active



in the Civil Rights movement, and served as Northern Coordinator of Dr. Martin

Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Since 1991, she has

taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where she

holds the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. Since the

1990s she has made around eighty appearances a year on the lecture circuit. In

1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill

Clinton's inauguration, the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert

Frost at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. In 1995, she was recognized for

having the longest-running record (two years) on The New York Times Paperback

Nonfiction Bestseller List.

 

With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou was heralded



as a new kind of memoirist, one of the first African American women who was

able to publicly discuss her personal life. She is highly respected as a

spokesperson for Black people and women. Angelou's work is often characterized

as autobiographical fiction. She has, however, made a deliberate attempt to

challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing,

and expanding the genre. Her books, centered on themes such as identity,

family, and racism, are often used as set texts in schools and universities

internationally. Some of her more controversial work has been challenged or

banned in US schools and libraries.

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A Brave And Startling Truth

 

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 are 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

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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

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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.

 

Maya Angelou



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A Conceit

 

Give me your hand



 

Make room for me

to lead and follow

you


beyond this rage of poetry.

 

Let others have



the privacy of

touching words

and love of loss

of love.


 

For me


Give me your hand.

 

Maya Angelou



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A Plagued Journey

 

There is no warning rattle at the door  



nor heavy feet to stomp the foyer boards.  

Safe in the dark prison, I know that  

light slides over

the fingered work of a toothless  

woman in Pakistan.

Happy prints of

an invisible time are illumined.  

My mouth agape

rejects the solid air and

lungs hold. The invader takes  

direction and

seeps through the plaster walls.  

It is at my chamber, entering  

the keyhole, pushing

through the padding of the door.  

I cannot scream. A bone

of fear clogs my throat.

It is upon me. It is

sunrise, with Hope

its arrogant rider.

My mind, formerly quiescent

in its snug encasement, is strained

to look upon their rapturous visages,  

to let them enter even into me.  

I am forced

outside myself to

mount the light and ride joined with Hope.

 

Through all the bright hours  



I cling to expectation, until  

darkness comes to reclaim me

as its own. Hope fades, day is gone  

into its irredeemable place

and I am thrown back into the familiar  

bonds of disconsolation.

Gloom crawls around

lapping lasciviously

between my toes, at my ankles,  

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and it sucks the strands of my  

hair. It forgives my heady  

fling with Hope. I am

joined again into its

greedy arms.

 

Maya Angelou



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Ain't That Bad?

 

Dancin' the funky chicken



Eatin' ribs and tips

Diggin' all the latest sounds

And drinkin' gin in sips.

 

Puttin' down that do-rag



Tighten' up my 'fro

Wrappin' up in Blackness

Don't I shine and glow?

 

Hearin' Stevie Wonder



Cookin' beans and rice

Goin' to the opera

Checkin' out Leontyne Price.

 

Get down, Jesse Jackson



Dance on, Alvin Ailey

Talk, Miss Barbara Jordan

Groove, Miss Pearlie Bailey.

 

Now ain't they bad?



An ain't they Black?

An ain't they Black?

An' ain't they Bad?

An ain't they bad?

An' ain't they Black?

An' ain't they fine?

 

Black like the hour of the night



When your love turns and wriggles close to your side

Black as the earth which has given birth

To nations, and when all else is gone will abide.

 

Bad as the storm that leaps raging from the heavens



Bringing the welcome rain

Bad as the sun burning orange hot at midday

Lifting the waters again.

 

Arthur Ashe on the tennis court



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Mohammed Ali in the ring

Andre Watts and Andrew Young

Black men doing their thing.

 

Dressing in purples and pinks and greens



Exotic as rum and Cokes

Living our lives with flash and style

Ain't we colorful folks?

 

Now ain't we bad?



An' ain't we Black?

An' ain't we Black?

An' ain't we bad?

An' ain't we bad?

An' ain't we Black?

An' ain't we fine?

 

Maya Angelou



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Alone

 

Lying, thinking



Last night

How to find my soul a home

Where water is not thirsty

And bread loaf is not stone

I came up with one thing

And I don't believe I'm wrong

That nobody,

But nobody

Can make it out here alone.

 

Alone, all alone



Nobody, but nobody

Can make it out here alone.

 

There are some millionaires



With money they can't use

Their wives run round like banshees

Their children sing the blues

They've got expensive doctors

To cure their hearts of stone.

But nobody

No, nobody

Can make it out here alone.

 

Alone, all alone



Nobody, but nobody

Can make it out here alone.

 

Now if you listen closely



I'll tell you what I know

Storm clouds are gathering

The wind is gonna blow

The race of man is suffering

And I can hear the moan,

'Cause nobody,

But nobody

Can make it out here alone.

 

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Alone, all alone

Nobody, but nobody

Can make it out here alone.

 

Maya Angelou



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Awaking In New York

 

Curtains forcing their will  



against the wind,

children sleep,

exchanging dreams with  

seraphim. The city

drags itself awake on  

subway straps; and

I, an alarm, awake as a  

rumor of war,

lie stretching into dawn,  

unasked and unheeded.

 

Maya Angelou



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Caged Bird

 

The free bird leaps



on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wings

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

 

But a bird that stalks



down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

 

The caged bird sings



with fearful trill

of the things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom

 

The free bird thinks of another breeze



and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn

and he names the sky his own.

 

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams



his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing

 

The caged bird sings



with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

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and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.

 

Maya Angelou



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California Prodigal

 

FOR DAVID P—B



 

The eye follows, the land

Slips upward, creases down, forms  

The gentle buttocks of a young  

Giant. In the nestle,

Old adobe bricks, washed of  

Whiteness, paled to umber,

Await another century.

 

Star Jasmine and old vines



Lay claim upon the ghosted land,  

Then quiet pools whisper  

Private childhood secrets.

 

Flush on inner cottage walls  



Antiquitous faces,

Used to the gelid breath

Of old manors, glare disdainfully  

Over breached time.

 

Around and through these  



Cold phantasmatalities,  

He walks, insisting

To the languid air,

Activity, music,

A generosity of graces.

 

His lupin fields spurn old



Deceit and agile poppies dance

In golden riot.   Each day is

Fulminant, exploding brightly  

Under the gaze of his exquisite  

Sires, frozen in the famed paint  

Of dead masters. Audacious  

Sunlight casts defiance

At their feet.

 

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Maya Angelou

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Equality

 

You declare you see me dimly



through a glass which will not shine,

though I stand before you boldly,

trim in rank and marking time.

You do own to hear me faintly

as a whisper out of range,

while my drums beat out the message

and the rhythms never change.

 

Equality, and I will be free.



Equality, and I will be free.

 

You announce my ways are wanton,



that I fly from man to man,

but if I'm just a shadow to you,

could you ever understand ?

 

We have lived a painful history,



we know the shameful past,

but I keep on marching forward,

and you keep on coming last.

 

Equality, and I will be free.



Equality, and I will be free.

 

Take the blinders from your vision,



take the padding from your ears,

and confess you've heard me crying,

and admit you've seen my tears.

 

Hear the tempo so compelling,



hear the blood throb in my veins.

Yes, my drums are beating nightly,

and the rhythms never change.

 

Equality, and I will be free.



Equality, and I will be free.

 

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Maya Angelou

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Glory Falls

 

Glory falls around us



as we sob

a dirge of

desolation on the Cross

and hatred is the ballast of

the rock

which his upon our necks

and underfoot.

We have woven

robes of silk

and clothed our nakedness

with tapestry.

From crawling on this

murky planet's floor

we soar beyond the

birds and

through the clouds

and edge our waays from hate

and blind despair and

bring horror

to our brothers, and to our sisters cheer.

We grow despite the

horror that we feed

upon our own

tomorrow.

We grow.

 

Maya Angelou



19

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Harlem Hopscotch

 

One foot down, then hop! It's hot.



         Good things for the ones that's got.

Another jump, now to the left.

         Everybody for hisself.

 

In the air, now both feet down.



        Since you black, don't stick around.

Food is gone, the rent is due,

         Curse and cry and then jump two.

 

All the people out of work,



        Hold for three, then twist and jerk.

Cross the line, they count you out.

         That's what hopping's all about.

 

Both feet flat, the game is done.



They think I lost. I think I won.

 

Maya Angelou



20

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Human Family

 

I note the obvious differences



in the human family.

Some of us are serious,

some thrive on comedy.

 

Some declare their lives are lived



as true profundity,

and others claim they really live

the real reality.

 

The variety of our skin tones



can confuse, bemuse, delight,

brown and pink and beige and purple,

tan and blue and white.

 

I've sailed upon the seven seas



and stopped in every land,

I've seen the wonders of the world

not yet one common man.

 

I know ten thousand women



called Jane and Mary Jane,

but I've not seen any two

who really were the same.

 

Mirror twins are different



although their features jibe,

and lovers think quite different thoughts

while lying side by side.

 

We love and lose in China,



we weep on England's moors,

and laugh and moan in Guinea,

and thrive on Spanish shores.

 

We seek success in Finland,



are born and die in Maine.

In minor ways we differ,

in major we're the same.

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I note the obvious differences

between each sort and type,

but we are more alike, my friends,

than we are unalike.

 

We are more alike, my friends,



than we are unalike.

 

We are more alike, my friends,



than we are unalike.

 

Maya Angelou



22

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I know why the caged bird sings

 

A free bird leaps on the back



Of the wind and floats downstream

Till the current ends and dips his wing

In the orange suns rays

And dares to claim the sky.

 

But a BIRD that stalks down his narrow cage



Can seldom see through his bars of rage

His wings are clipped and his feet are tied

So he opens his throat to sing.

 

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill



Of things unknown but longed for still

And his tune is heard on the distant hill for

The caged bird sings of freedom.

 

The free bird thinks of another breeze



And the trade winds soft through

The sighing trees

And the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright

Lawn and he names the sky his own.

 

But a caged BIRD stands on the grave of dreams



His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

His wings are clipped and his feet are tied

So he opens his throat to sing.

 

The caged bird sings with



A fearful trill of things unknown

But longed for still and his

Tune is heard on the distant hill

For the caged bird sings of freedom.

 

Maya Angelou



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In All Ways A Woman

 

In my young years I took pride in the fact that luck was called a lady. In fact,



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