“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.”
You wrote a cage, a bird, the wind
into a song that has outlasted you,
as of this morning,
when North Carolina woke
missing the voice of a familiar breathing,
the bellowing rise and fall chest of treasures
sleeping through your last night into the
early morn, and the dawn of this day
rising on your noble face for the last time.
How many lives did you turn into
moments of gold with your open heart,
and your wise words, permeating the veil of history
with your unshakable truth and muted mouth
reborn into glory, little girl,
tell me a story of how you did not talk for years,
how you thought it was your voice that killed that man
who took your eight year old body as his own,
how he spent one night in jail,
how your uncles took the law into their own just hands,
and no, child, your voice did not kill him,
yet five years went by without a word from your lips
because you thought your voice would kill anyone,
muted Marguerite, when your mouth finally opened again,
and when the pen was put there years later,
it was your voice that saved so many like you,
like myself, like all of us who turned to your words
as candles and as beacons and as hope.
Tell me story of a young woman,
a young mother, driven to survival and necessity,
how sex and struggle became synonymous with life,
how poverty and prostitution
left a bitter pill in your mouth that you learned
to chew up into the words of songs,
night clubs knew your name, dark girl flame,
how you danced and sang Miss Calypso tuned
lullabies to your baby boy growing fight,
young and fast Marguerite Ann Johnson,
becoming Maya, becoming Maya Angelou,
girl you, you, were leaving your marks on the night,
and all of these fingerprints would soon turn to light.
Tell me a story of those Great Men,
and how you were a force under their feet,
how you were a fire in their bellies,
how you surely kept them on their toes
and graced them with your woman song,
how Dr. King and Malcolm X knew you as Sister,
how you picked up their blown out torches
and carried them into darkest cities with your words to light them,
how Egypt and Africa and motherlands
are woven into the tapestry of your delicate skin,
Maya, you are the movement personified,
you carried the Light of justice, of peace, of equality,
and I know that tonight,
your brothers King, X, Baraka and many others
are celebrating a joyous homecoming.
Tell me a story of your words,
My Angel, you,
poet and dreamer and teacher and light.
Your words are a legacy forever etched in us,
the flight of your caged bird heart gave us hope
that we would escape our own self-made prisons,
and through the steps of our own growing,
and the compassion we extend to our brokenness, we can FLY.
Tell me one last story, My Angel.
I wonder if you were scared. Were you?
I wonder if you knew you were going to go. Did you?
I wonder what nightgown you chose to wear,
how you left your hair, pushed back and white, untouched silk.
I wonder if you felt alone, beautiful Poet,
or if you closed your eyes in the presence of everyone you ever loved,
defying time and space and gravity and place
and hearing only the hum of their hearts.
I wonder if you went to sleep
with peace resting heavily on your chest,
a shimmer in your eyes,
a knowing smile on your lips,
that’s how I see you going, silently slipping out of this world,
leaving the indelible marks of a Queen on everything you touched.
I think of your last public words:
“Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”
I listen to myself, to my heart, to my stories, to your stories,
to the unbreakable voice of women,
yes, all women,
rising up in a song of sisterhood,
rising in a handholding pact of solidarity,
rising up in waves of love that light a path to your Transcendence.
In my heart, I fly with you this morning,
just for a moment, to feel the wind underneath your golden wings,
to see the rainbows that are rising out of clouds
that remind us of the color you left in the world
with your Beauty, your Message, your Spirit, your Freedom.
Rest In Poetry, Maya Angelou. April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Lauryn DeGrado / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Wiki Commons