“a song flung up to heaven”: a poem for Maya Angelou

Today is Maya Angelou‘s birthday. & just as she began her 1969 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings autobiography w/the memory of her reciting an Easter speech, I honor her memory & celebrate her genius this Easter w/a poem I wrote for her seven years ago, the day she passed. Maya Angelou lives on. & as long as I live, I will carry & share her w/others. (Note: Click here to hear/watch me read the poem.)

in joy!



a song flung up to heaven”[1]: poem for Maya Angelou

who will honor her with poems

as much as she’s honored us?


our bodacious black woman poet

our mother, grandmother, sister

our friend


who rose thru racism & rape

speechlessness & humiliation

teenage pregnancy & segregation


who loved Shakespeare just as much as Dunbar

who privileged teachers & librarians

who walked with Martin & Malcolm

who will honor her with poems

as much as she’s honored us?

she claimed we’re phenomenal women

she encouraged us to rise

she united us on morning’s pulses


who stood in her grandmother’s genius

while affirmed in her mother’s love

offered herself for borrowing, for she knew:

nobody, no, nobody can make it our here alone

& we—quite gratefully—took her:

into our churches

into our schools

into our Presidential Inaugurations & United Nations

we—    printed her in textbooks

featured her in films

taped her onto our bathroom mirrors

we—    sat her on our bookshelves

placed her in our memories

fixed her in our hearts

so tho we may be caged birds

we have the fire to sing

her traveling shoes became our own

we gathered together in her name

we sung & swung & got merry like Christmas

for life didn’t frighten us at all

cause the stars weren’t lonesome beside her light

who will honor her with poems

as much as she’s honored us?


our brazen black woman poet

our amazing peace

the heart of a woman


who got her cool drink of water ‘fore she died

who needs nothing else for her journey now

whose wings fit her perfectly well

trumpets sound

shakers sing

a song’s flown up to heaven!

[1] Title is taken from Maya Angelou’s 2002 autobiography, A Song Flung Up to Heaven, the sixth of her series.

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