Today, I celebrate Maya Angelou. I am by no means an expert on Angelou. But, sometimes, you read something from a writer that so deeply resonates, the words remain inside you. For me, this is my story with Maya. I haven’t read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I haven’t read Letter to My Daughter. Rather, I was first introduced to Angelou through a poem she wrote entitled, Touched By an Angel. Her written words were exquisite and beautiful. Not long after, I read a few lines of her poem Still I Rise in the book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. The few lines Kidd highlighted sunk into my core.
As life unfolds in beauty, I came upon a complete collection of Angelou’s poems at a local used book store. I turned pages quickly to reacquaint myself with the soulful lines and fell in love with the whole poem. For me, Still I Rise is about resurrection. This poem is the promise of Jesus. This poem is not about one resurrection after death, but about the many resurrections, the cycle of death and rebirth we live over and over in our lives. This poem is hope in the face of despair. Since this poem, I’ve gone on to read many of her other poems. Some make me laugh, others bring me grief. But, this remains my favorite. Angelou is a writer who inspires me to celebrate the feminine, to celebrate humanity. Today, may you celebrate the gift she left behind… her soulful being!
Still, I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” – Luke 24:5 (b)
Read through this sentence slowly. What word or words stand out to you. Take a moment to dwell on that word or phrase. Is there an invitation for your life calling to you from this word or phrase? Rest in prayer.