Poetry From Two Margins

This was originally posted in July 23, 2009, as part of the original Reading in Between blog (which went a little off-track).

As of late, I have been feeling the very mild melancholy that often creeps up on a person during the rainy season – and indeed, it is very rainy this season.  Perhaps the melancholy is far more persistent these days because the weather has acquired a rather distressing habit of alternating between sunny and rainy within a span of approximately twelve daylight hours.  Being rather sensitive to all sorts of things (even though I could be insensitive when it comes to a whole lot of other things too), I often find myself needing to find ways to make the melancholy go away.  Usually the most effective tactic for me is reading one particular poem by Maya Angelou.

I had known of Maya Angelou since I was in High School, but the poem that often makes my days brighter in the gloom was not brought to my attention until I was in college, when it was became an assigned reading.  Evidently, the poem made me fall in love with Angelou’s work: her themes were rooted from being part of not one, but TWO marginalized identities (as a woman, and as an African-American).  Her words held so much strength and hope that one couldn’t help but be inspired.  Despite having an easier life than Dr. Angelou, I felt a kinship with her because she had tapped into all the feelings of hopelessness and spun it into something powerful.  She had turned it into an open defiance of the status quo.

In moments of gloom, I need only remember that there is no such thing as hopelessness, not unless I believe that there is.  I may be down for now, but 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’ll 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 haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

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’ll 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.

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