The Complete Poetry

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The beauty and spirit of Maya Angelou’s words live on in this complete collection of poetry.

Throughout her illustrious career in letters, Maya Angelou gifted, healed, and inspired the world with her words. Now the beauty and spirit of those words live on in this new and complete collection of poetry that reflects and honors the writer’s remarkable life.
 
Every poetic phrase, every poignant verse can be found within the pages of this sure-to-be-treasured volume—from her reflections on African American life and hardship in the compilation Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ’fore I Diiie (“Though there’s one thing that I cry for / I believe enough to die for / That is every man’s responsibility to man”) to her revolutionary celebrations of womanhood in the poem “Still I Rise” (“Out of the huts of history’s shame / I rise / Up from a past that’s rooted in pain / I rise”) to her “On the Pulse of Morning” tribute at President William Jefferson Clinton’s inauguration (“Lift up your eyes upon / The day breaking for you. / Give birth again / To the dream.”).
 
Maya Angelou: The Complete Poetry also features her final long-form poems, including “A Brave and Startling Truth,” “Amazing Peace,” “His Day Is Done,” and the honest and endearing Mother:
 
“I feared if I let you go
You would leave me eternally.
You smiled at my fears, saying
I could not stay in your lap forever”
 
This collection also includes the never-before-published poem “Amazement Awaits,” commissioned for the 2008 Olympic Games:
 
“We are here at the portal of the world we had wished for
At the lintel of the world we most need.
We are here roaring and singing.
We prove that we can not only make peace, we can bring it with us.”
 
Timeless and prescient, this definitive compendium will warm the hearts of Maya Angelou’s most ardent admirers as it introduces new readers to the legendary poet, activist, and teacher—a phenomenal woman for the ages.

Under the Cover

An excerpt from The Complete Poetry

They Went Home
 
 
They went home and told their wives,
               that never once in all their lives,
               had they known a girl like me,
But … They went home.
 
They said my house was licking clean,
               no word I spoke was ever mean,
               I had an air of mystery,
But … They went home.
 
My praises were on all men’s lips,
               they liked my smile, my wit, my hips,
 
they’d spend one night, or two or three.
But …
 
 
 
The Gamut
 
 
Soft you day, be velvet soft,
               My true love approaches,
Look you bright, you dusty sun,
               Array your golden coaches.
 
Soft you wind, be soft as silk,
My true love is speaking.
               Hold you birds, your silver throats,
His golden voice I’m seeking.
 
Come you death, in haste, do come,
               My shroud of black be weaving,
Quiet my heart, be deathly quiet,
               My true love is leaving.
 
 
 
A Zorro Man
 
 
Here
in the wombed room
silk purple drapes
flash a light as subtle
as your hands before
love-making
 
Here
in the covered lens
I catch a
clitoral image of
your general inhabitation
long and like a
late dawn in winter
 
Here
this clean mirror
traps me unwilling
in a gone time
when I was love
and you were booted and brave
and trembling for me.
 
 
 
To a Man
 
 
My man is
Black Golden Amber
Changing.
Warm mouths of Brandy Fine
Cautious sunlight on a patterned rug
Coughing laughter, rocked on a whorl of French tobacco
Graceful turns on woolen stilts
Secretive?
A cat’s eye.
Southern. Plump and tender with navy-bean sullenness
And did I say “Tender”?
The gentleness
A big cat stalks through stubborn bush
And did I mention “Amber”?
The heatless fire consuming itself.
Again. Anew. Into ever neverlessness.
My man is Amber
Changing
Always into itself
New. Now New.
Still itself.
Still.
 
 
 
Late October
 
 
Carefully
the leaves of autumn
sprinkle down the tinny
sound of little dyings
and skies sated
of ruddy sunsets
of roseate dawns
roil ceaselessly in
cobweb greys and turn
to black
for comfort.
 
Only lovers
see the fall
a signal end to endings
a gruffish gesture alerting
those who will not be alarmed
that we begin to stop
in order simply
to begin
again.
 
 
 
No Loser, No Weeper
 
 
“I hate to lose something,”
               then she bent her head,
“even a dime, I wish I was dead.
I can’t explain it. No more to be said.
’Cept I hate to lose something.
“I lost a doll once and cried for a week.
She could open her eyes, and do all but speak.
I believe she was took, by some doll-snatching sneak.
I tell you, I hate to lose something.
 
“A watch of mine once, got up and walked away.
It had twelve numbers on it and for the time of day.
I’ll never forget it and all I can say
Is I really hate to lose something.
 
“Now if I felt that way ’bout a watch and a toy,
What you think I feel ’bout my lover-boy?
I ain’t threatening you, madam, but he is my evening’s joy.
And I mean I really hate to lose something.”
 
 
 
When You Come to Me
 
               When you come to me, unbidden,
Beckoning me
               To long-ago rooms,
Where memories lie.
 
 Offering me, as to a child, an attic,
Gatherings of days too few,
               Baubles of stolen kisses,
Trinkets of borrowed loves,
               Trunks of secret words,
 
 I CRY.
 
 
 
Remembering
 
Soft grey ghosts crawl up my sleeve
to peer into my eyes
while I within deny their threats
and answer them with lies.
 
Mushlike memories perform
a ritual on my lips
I lie in stolid hopelessness
and they lay my soul in strips.
 
 
 
In a Time
 
In a time of secret wooing
Today prepares tomorrow’s ruin
Left knows not what right is doing
My heart is torn asunder.
 
In a time of furtive sighs
Sweet hellos and sad goodbyes
Half-truths told and entire lies
My conscience echoes thunder.
 
In a time when kingdoms come
Joy is brief as summer’s fun
Happiness its race has run
Then pain stalks in to plunder.
 
 
 
Tears
 
Tears
The crystal rags
Viscous tatters
of a worn-through soul.
 
Moans
Deep swan song
Blue farewell
of a dying dream.
 
 
 
 
The Detached
 
We die,
Welcoming Bluebeards to our darkening closets,
Stranglers to our outstretched necks,
                         Stranglers, who neither care nor
                         care to know that
                         DEATH IS INTERNAL.
 
We pray,
Savoring sweet the teethed lies,
Bellying the grounds before alien gods,
                         Gods, who neither know nor
                         wish to know that
                         HELL IS INTERNAL.
 
We love,
Rubbing the nakednesses with gloved hands,
Inverting our mouths in tongued kisses,
                         Kisses that neither touch nor
                         care to touch if
                         LOVE IS INTERNAL.
 
 
 
 
To a Husband
 
Your voice at times a fist
               Tight in your throat
Jabs ceaselessly at phantoms
               In the room,
Your hand a carved and
               Skimming boat
Goes down the Nile
               To point out Pharaoh’s tomb.
 
You’re Africa to me
               At brightest dawn.
The Congo’s green and
               Copper’s brackish hue,
A continent to build
 
With Black Man’s brawn.
I sit at home and see it all
               Through you.

- About the author -

Maya Angelou was raised in Stamps, Arkansas. In addition to her bestselling autobiographies, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and The Heart of a Woman, she wrote numerous volumes of poetry, among them Phenomenal Woman, And Still I Rise, On the Pulse of Morning, and Mother. Maya Angelou died in 2014.

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The Complete Poetry

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The Complete Poetry

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