May 30, 2014

Maya Angelou

I am not one to comment on the passing of a famous person. I feel sad for them and their families when I hear of a death, just the same as I would any other, non-famous person, I have never met. But I feel moved to comment on the passing of this special woman. Maya Angelou. As a voracious reader, as a writer, as a woman, I have felt a certain kinship with this particular phenomenal woman. I have been moved by her writing and I have learned from her words. She is an amazing spirit who touched my life without ever knowing me.

I remember reading on old, yellowed, used copy of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and feeling awe for this woman and her words...for this teacher. I remember reading Phenomenal Woman over and over and over again, feeling its power and courage and spirit. Feeling empowered and emboldened. Feeling a new kind of love and respect for myself. I have listened to her speak with wisdom and truth and love. I have read her story, the heartbreak and the pain and the triumph and the amazing spirit.

So, when I still myself and let myself re-experience the feelings I've felt when I've encountered a piece of Maya Angelou, through her writing or speaking; when I let myself, in quiet, acknowledge the loss of this woman, I find that tears come to my eyes. As if I'd known her. As if she'd lived next door and I would feel the hole left from not passing her in the yard. As if she'd been a teacher and mentor in school who'd offered me wisdom as I stretched from adolescent to adult. As if she'd been a friend. Of course, she had been none of these things to me. And yet, in a way, she'd been all of these things to me. And that was one of her gifts. Her ability to transcend; to move from the page to the chair next to me; to move from the screen to the seat across the table; to make me feel like a granddaughter receiving wisdom from her grandmother while sharing a pot of tea.

Tears pool in the rims of my eyes as I salute, with my heart, the spirit of Maya Angelou. I say thank you, Maya Angelou. I say, Godspeed, Maya Angelou. I say, may our paths cross again on another plane of life, Maya Angelou. To you, Maya Angelou, I say, good night.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Maya Angelou, "Phenomenal Woman" from And Still I Rise. Copyright 1978 by Maya Angelou.

"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."--Maya Angelou

And oh, what a beautiful song yours was, Maya Angelou.

Until next time, go read something by Maya Angelou and bask in her glory and her grace and her wisdom.

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