Throughout my life I have come across musings, quotes and poems that have stayed with me for one reason or another. Maya Angelou has never left me. Her eloquence in poetry warms my heart and the truism expressed provokes meaningful thought for me to ponder. Enjoy her sage words, quiet to your thoughts and let hers sit with you awhile…
I read to my Dad while he was in hospital. I wasn’t into reading his favorite, Popular Mechanics or Popular Science magazines, so I treated him to my favorite musings of Maya Angelou. To my surprise, Dad was especially taken with the poem, “When Great Trees Fall” from a collection of poems in “Celebrations. Rituals of Peace and Prayer”, by Maya Angelou. Ironically, it’s a famous death poem. So for your consideration, Dad’s heartfelt poem…
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,
examines, gnaws on kind words unsaid,
promised walks never taken.
Great souls die and our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us. Our souls,
dependent upon their nurture, now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed and informed by their
radiance, fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold caves.
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.
gammy J’s annual reading on the First Day of Christmas as the First Gift of Christmas to linger with us for the season…
Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem
By Maya Angelou
Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.
Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.
We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?
Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.
It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.
Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.
In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.
We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.
We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.
It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.
On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.
At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.
We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.
Mother, A Cradle To Hold Me
“It is true I was created in you.
It is also true That you were created for me.
I owned your voice.
It was shaped and tuned to soothe me.
Your arms were molded Into a cradle to hold me, to rock me.
The scent of your body was the air Perfumed for me to breathe.
During those early, dearest days
I did not dream that you had A large life which included me,
For I had a life Which was only you.
Time passed steadily and drew us apart.
I was unwilling.I feared if I let you go
You would leave me eternally.
You smiled at my fears, saying
I could not stay in your lap forever.
That one day you would have to stand
And where would I be?
You smiled again. I did not.
Without warning you left me,
But you returned immediately.
You left again and returned, I admit, quickly,
But relief did not rest with me easily.
You left again, but again returned.
You left again, but again returned.
Each time you reentered my world
You brought assurance.
Slowly I gained confidence.
You thought you know me, But I did know you,
You thought you were watching me,
But I did hold you securely in my sight,
Recording every moment,
Memorizing your smiles, tracing your frowns.
In your absence I rehearsed you,
The way you had of singing On a breeze,
While a sob lay At the root of your song.
The way you posed your head
So that the light could caress your face
When you put your fingers on my hand
And your hand on my arm,
I was blessed with a sense of health,
Of strength and very good fortune.
You were always the heart of happiness to me,
Bringing nougats of glee, Sweets of open laughter.
I loved you even during the years
When you knew nothing
And I knew everything, I loved you still.
Condescendingly of course,
From my high perch Of teenage wisdom.
I spoke sharply of you, often
Because you were slow to understand.
I grew older and Was stunned to find
How much knowledge you had gleaned.
And so quickly.
Mother, I have learned enough now
To know I have learned nearly nothing.
On this day When mothers are being honored,
Let me thank you
That my selfishness, ignorance, and mockery
Did not bring you to Discard me like a broken doll
Which had lost its favor.
I thank you that You still find something in me
To cherish, to admire and to love.
I thank you, Mother.
I love you.”