Maya Angelou was not just a great thinker or writer, she was a doer. Active in both imagination and equality, she embodied the essence of social change. Her words leave us inspired and reflective. Maya was the first poet I ever truly enjoyed reading and not just because Oprah told me to.
This afternoon, I discovered she had died when I read the headline under some story about the Kim and Kanye wedding. At first, I was irritated and insulted, and part of me remains bewildered, but such a travesty is now the essence of our culture.
I could ruminate more on the time and effort we put into caring about celebrity lives- and believe me I am guilty of such behavior myself- but the significance of celebrating such a life lived deserves more than just a casual throwaway mention.
In some ways, what inspires this post is an effort to provide Maya with a more dignified response to her death. I am not a poet, and a lot of what is on this blog is not serious. But I want to try to let my sorrow and appreciation for one of this country’s finest writers shine.
When I was in high school, I participated in a poem reading where students were asked to read their favorite poem and explain why. My choice was Maya’s “Touched By An Angel,” dedicated to my Nana. My interest may have originally been sparked by the matching title to the TV show my Nana and I used to watch, but the words spoke a deeper connection of what it means to love and to lose.
Within the poem, Maya tells us to be brave, to break free of the loneliness that threatens to imprison us, and to relish the power of love. Love is the driving force of bravery and to accept it, is to take risks and to live a full life. I need daily reminders to be brave and confident, to allow kindness and love to flow rather than get caught up within myself and stressing over the small things.
What I have learned, and what this poem believes and reinforces, is not to avoid doing the things that may scare us. Often, those are the best moments and choices in our lives. We are the ones who imprison ourselves because we allow fear and doubt to stall our progress or success and calculate our futures.
With love, we can find the strength to be brave. We have stronger faith.
Thank you for your words and for your actions Maya Angelou.
“Touched By An Angel”
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
Is it now too cheesy to say that we have truly been touched by an angel? You can pretend that you didn’t read that if it is.