Shaker, Why Don't You Sing?

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Lyrical and cadent, dramatic and sometimes playful, these poems speak of love, longing, parting; of freedom and shattered dreams; of Saturday-night partying and the smells and sounds of Southern cities.

Under the Cover

An excerpt from Shaker, Why Don't You Sing?

AWAKING IN NEW YORK
 
Curtains forcing their will
against the wind,
children sleep,
exchanging dreams with
seraphim. The city
drags itself awake on
subway straps; and
I, an alarm, awake as a
rumor of war,
lay stretching into dawn,
unasked and unheeded.
 
 
A GOOD WOMAN FEELING BAD
 
The blues may be the life you’ve led
Or midnight hours in
An empty bed. But persecuting
Blues I’ve known
Could stalk
Like tigers, break like bone,
 
Pend like rope in
A gallows tree,
Make me curse
My pedigree,
 
Bitterness thick on
A rankling tongue,
A psalm to love that’s
Left unsung,
 
Rivers heading north
But ending South,
Funeral music
In a going-home mouth.
 
All riddles are blues,
And all blues are sad,
And I’m only mentioning
Some blues I’ve had.
 
THE HEALTH-FOOD DINER
 
No sprouted wheat and soya shoots
And Brussels in a cake,
Carrot straw and spinach raw,
(Today, I need a steak).
 
Not thick brown rice and rice pilau
Or mushrooms creamed on toast,
Turnips mashed and parsnips hashed,
(I’m dreaming of a roast).
 
Health-food folks around the world
Are thinned by anxious zeal,
They look for help in seafood kelp
(I count on breaded veal).
 
No Smoking signs, raw mustard greens,
Zucchini by the ton,
Uncooked kale and bodies frail
Are sure to make me run
 
to
 
Loins of pork and chicken thighs
And standing rib, so prime,
Pork chops brown and fresh ground round
(I crave them all the time).
 
Irish stews and boiled corned beef
and hot dogs by the scores,
or any place that saves a space
For smoking carnivores.

- 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.

More from Maya Angelou

Shaker, Why Don't You Sing?

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Shaker, Why Don't You Sing?

— Published by Random House —