Today is a sad day, and on this sad day we remember a beautiful, indeed magnificent hero, poet, voice for the voiceless, a great woman, Maya Angelou. Without doubt we will hear great elegies and so many who were touched by her life and her work will speak, both the famous to the unknown. But I will let her speak for herself in one of many powerful poems, so many sharing the technique of this one, the repetend that gains power as it is repeated. I could hardly choose one, so in fact I just chose one that made me, at this moment, cry the most irrepressibly, for her poetry does, in spite of my will sometimes, make me cry. Not that this is what her work is validated by of course, but just as a sign of how powerfully she can move us.
Still I Rise
By Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.