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When Great Trees Fall

May 28, 2014

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

From the poetry volume, ‘I shall not be moved.’


Maya Angelou

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 29, 2014 12:28 pm

    There is such a sad and beautiful truth in the stinging sorrow here.
    “Our senses, restored, never
    to be the same, whisper to us.
    They existed. They existed.
    We can be. Be and be
    better. For they existed.”

    I know I am better for having read at least two of her phenomenal poems. May her soul find peace, the sort she strove for while here, for the rest of us!
    me- the impact her poems had on the young college going me is something I cannot even begin to describe Ushus. It changed my perception . of how I viewed myself as a woman. I was a woman and felt proud of it. her words did it for me like nothing else ever could. it feels a little as if I have lost a mentor.

  2. May 29, 2014 12:30 pm

    There is another context to this title, and I wondered if that was what you were talking of. 1984, after Indira Gandhi was assassinated, the same phrase was used, “When Great Trees Fall…”

    me- ah yes. thought of it in hindsight when I re-read the title. the context is so different and yet some meanings remain the same. depends on one’s pov I suppose.

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