Yesterday, Maya Angelou died at the age of 86. I would by lying if I said that I was super familiar with her work, but what I’ve read did make a major impact. In high school, we read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings before we read Cry, the Beloved Country. The latter is one of my favorite books, so I always remember the former.
Instead of going on and on about how cool Maya Angelou was, I’m just going to share with you my favorite poem of hers, “On the Pulse of Morning.”
|A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon.The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
I will give you no more hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than
Your mouths spilling words
The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
Across the wall of the world,
Each of you a bordered country,
Your armed struggles for profit
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
The River sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
Today, the first and last of every Tree
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River.
Each of you, descendant of some passed
You, who gave me my first name, you
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot …
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the Tree planted by the River,
I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Lift up your eyes upon
Give birth again
Women, children, men,
Mold it into the shape of your most
Do not be wedded forever
The horizon leans forward,
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day