Refusal – Maya Angelou

Beloved, 

In what other lives or lands 

Have I known your lips 

Your Hands 

Your Laughter brave 

Irreverent. 

Those sweet excesses that 

I do adore. 

What surety is there 

That we will meet again, 

On other worlds some 

Future time undated. 

I defy my body’s haste. 

Without the promise 

Of one more sweet encounter 

I will not deign to die.

Old Folks Laugh – Maya Angelou 

They have spent their 

content of simpering, 

holding their lips this 

and that way, winding 

the lines between 

their brows. Old folks 

allow their bellies to jiggle like slow 

tambourines. 

The hollers 

rise up and spill 

over any way they want. 

When old folks laugh, they free the world. 

They turn slowly, slyly knowing 

the best and the worst 

of remembering. 

Saliva glistens in 

the corners of their mouths, 

their heads wobble 

on brittle necks, but 

their laps 

are filled with memories. 

When old folks laugh, they consider the promise 

of dear painless death, and generously 

forgive life for happening 

to them.

On The Pulse Of Morning – Maya Angelou 

A Rock, A River, A Tree 

Hosts to species long since departed, 

Mark the mastodon. 

The dinosaur, who left dry tokens 

Of their sojourn here 

On our planet floor, 

Any broad alarm of their of their hastening doom 

Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages. 

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, 

Come, you may stand upon my 

Back and face your distant destiny, 

But seek no haven in my shadow. 

I will give you no hiding place down here. 

You, created only a little lower than 

The angels, have crouched too long in 

The bruising darkness, 

Have lain too long 

Face down in ignorance. 

Your mouths spelling words 

Armed for slaughter. 

The rock cries out today, you may stand on me, 

But do not hide your face. 

Across the wall of the world, 

A river sings a beautiful song, 

Come rest here by my side. 

Each of you a bordered country, 

Delicate and strangely made proud, 

Yet thrusting perpetually under siege. 

Your armed struggles for profit 

Have left collars of waste upon 

My shore, currents of debris upon my breast. 

Yet, today I call you to my riverside, 

If you will study war no more. 

Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs 

The Creator gave to me when I 

And the tree and stone were one. 

Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your brow 

And when you yet knew you still knew nothing. 

The river sings and sings on. 

There is a true yearning to respond to 

The singing river and the wise rock. 

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew, 

The African and Native American, the Sioux, 

The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek, 

The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, 

The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, 

The privileged, the homeless, the teacher. 

They hear. They all hear 

The speaking of the tree. 

Today, the first and last of every tree 

Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the river. 

Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river. 

Each of you, descendant of some passed on 

Traveller, has been paid for. 

You, who gave me my first name, 

You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, 

You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, 

Then forced on bloody feet, 

Left me to the employment of other seekers- 

Desperate for gain, starving for gold. 

You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot… 

You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, 

Bought, sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare 

Praying for a dream. 

Here, root yourselves beside me. 

I am the tree planted by the river, 

Which will not be moved. 

I, the rock, I the river, I the tree 

I am yours- your passages have been paid. 

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need 

For this bright morning dawning for you. 

History, despite its wrenching pain, 

Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, 

Need not be lived again. 

Lift up your eyes upon 

The day breaking for you. 

Give birth again 

To the dream. 

Women, children, men, 

Take it into the palms of your hands. 

Mold it into the shape of your most 

Private need. Sculpt it into 

The image of your most public self. 

Lift up your hearts. 

Each new hour holds new chances 

For new beginnings. 

Do not be wedded forever 

To fear, yoked eternally 

To brutishness. 

The horizon leans forward, 

Offering you space to place new steps of change. 

Here, on the pulse of this fine day 

You may have the courage 

To look up and out upon me, 

The rock, the river, the tree, your country. 

No less to Midas than the mendicant. 

No less to you now than the mastodon then. 

Here on the pulse of this new day 

You may have the grace to look up and out 

And into your sister’s eyes, 

Into your brother’s face, your country 

And say simply 

Very simply 

With hope 

Good morning.