of things unknown but longed for still (Maya Angelou, 1928–2014)

For Brian, who will forever miss his shopping companion at the Winston-Salem Trader Joe’s. May you always look at frozen black beans in a new light.

“And there she was—this iconic legend posted up in the frozen vegetable aisle studying the back of the black beans bag like it held the answers to oppression and racial equality instead of just nutritional content. I always dreamed that if I met one of my idols I’d have some profound question to present them and they, in turn, would bestow upon me one of these riveting quotes that I could repeat over and over in my head until I got to a computer and was able to slap it on a picture of them and post it on the internet. I’d live by that wisdom, you know. But instead, I just passed right by her in her wheel chair and said, ‘I recommend the pinto, ma’am. They’re much more flavorful.'”—my brother, Brian, on shopping at the same Trader Joe’s as Maya Angelou.

“Still I Rise”

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my hautiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

—Maya Angelou, 1928–2014

 

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