A Tribute to Another Woman Who Changed My Life – Maya Angelou 1928-2014

This morning my New York Times headline email in my in box brought me to tears in a matter of seconds. This post is a bit unusual, as I do not address grief often on this site. As Maya was always an exception to the rule, I decided to post a poem I wrote about her many years ago after seeing her speak in Santa Cruz, California in the late 1990s. Thank you, Maya, for being the brave and beautiful woman you were.


upon first sight
i inhaled quickly
and i don’t think i breathed again
until i got in my car to leave

her stride is that of
a ruler
lacking every insecurity
one foot
and then, the other
anxious for the next

arms swinging
hips swaying
inviting swooning
sweeping us into her corner
of the kitchen
right where she wants us
and right where we
want to be

one arm bent
at the elbow
carrying the additional extremity growth
from youth
her words on pages
the exact words we await

a space shuttle pales in comparison
to the grandiosity i witness
without breath

flowing layers of cloth
her glorious body
red, red, red

barefoot, she was twenty feet tall
african queen, mother of all children
the mother i did not choose
the guru in my karma

as the words traipsed through diaphragm
to throat to tongue through teeth
she looked at us, enveloped us…knew us
the bottle of wine i had beforehand

a wordless child becomes the voice of millions
excluding so few…

she spoke the words i remembered
poems i memorized
philosophies i adopted upon initial exposure
the voice of a thousand mothers and fathers
grandmothers and grandfathers
sons and daughters…an old soul

she is the pyromaniac inflaming my desire to learn
and receive…

holding my breath, i hate that it will end…
her voice will stop whispering in my ear
telling me the secrets of poetry
the passage to remain phenomenal
the sense of being
the art of cherishing what i own (my power)
the appreciation of pure simplicity in its most complex form

yes, i will have to breathe
she will have to stop
and i will have to carry on alone
as she taught me to do so well…

Kat Reed

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