For Maya Angelou (1928-2014)
About now, Maya, would be time for me to learn
to write an elegy, a form I've never tried.
You have joined the ancestors.
But even in death you urge a woman to learn.
About now I should write the lofty verse,
place you with Amiri in Heaven,
brown feet deep in Elysian grasses or in the river
near Enkai's hidden hut. I should write
you reciting before the Creator. You now
have audience eternal with Dunbar,
salons with Hurston, Hughes, and Brooks.
You hug Martin and Malcolm again and again,
grasp why we have been burdened.
Then you see Jimmy Baldwin!
You're greeting, too, those unfamously departed
you made feel famous in their time.
(That girl behind me in college —
you rushed me to tell her of her beauty.
Her dark skin, polished copper.
Her nose like yours.
Her thick lips, the invitation to life.
She glowed and glowed.
What became of her?
She needed to hear.
I did not know then who I was or maybe
you saw how much I knew,
and for a long time I struggled with how
you looked through me. Did I resist blessing?)
Maya, you leap again — I should write — dancing
the dance none may rehearse.
But you do not need a poem from me.
My thin voice need not elevate
your memory: the world breathes your legacy.
Everywhere an article.
Everywhere a tweet.
Everywhere your face, your height,
your wisdom words
make books of mourning.
Nordette N. Adams, May 28, 2014
7 Pieces of Timeless Wisdom from Maya Angelou at Mother Jones
Maya Angelou, a daughter of the South, a voice for us all at the Los Angeles Times