Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou (1928 - 2014)

When Great Trees Fall
by Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

A great tree fell today. We were of different genders, generations, races, political persuasions, and even religious beliefs, but I admired her greatly. It was strange, but when she spoke, her voice alone could heal deep wounds. At least, it seemed that way to me. You can read about her here. May she rest in peace.


  1. A great American whose life contained such varied chapters. And she came through it all, not scarred by bitterness but singing like a beautiful caged bird - full of life and hope. And now at last that bird has flown. Maya.

  2. Elizabeth and Y.P., she will certainly be missed. A voice of calm and reason has been stilled.

  3. Oh - I did not know she has died. She was an inspiration, and not only to African Americans. What a wonderful woman.

  4. We are diminished with her departure and STILL richer for knowing her.
    Not only a voice of calm and reason, but one of beauty.

  5. I will miss that wonderful rhythmic, metered voice, and the words stitched together like fine silk.

    She was one of a kind. One of the Great Ones.We are better for her having been here.

    Thank you Rhymes, for a beautiful post.


  6. A beautiful tribute to a lady who not only coped but seemed to gain from adversity.

  7. Tom, Michelle, Michael, and Adrian, I couldn't agree more with your sentiments. If I may return to the tree metaphor, she was certainly one of our giant redwoods.

  8. This was a nice tribute; thank you. I read the other day that she had written seven autobiographies in her life. I can think of few other lives that could merit that. Did you read this quote, "To know her life story is to simultaneously wonder what on earth you have been doing with your own life, and feel glad that you didn't have to go through half the things she has." ? Love it.