Download document


Passing Time

Your skin like dawn

Mine like musk

One paints the beginning

of a certain end.

The other, the end of a

sure beginning.

When You Come

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.

Phenomenal woman

Pretty women wonder

where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit

a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say

It’s in the reach of my arms

The span of my hips

The stride of my step

The curl of my lips

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman, that’s me.

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man

The fellows stand

or fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.

I say

It’s the fire in my eyes

And the flash of my teeth

The swing in my waist

And the joy in my feet

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman, that’s me.

Men themselves have wondered what they see in me

They try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery

When I try to show them

They say they still can’t see.

I say

It’s the arch of my back

The sun of my smile

The ride of my breasts

The grace of my style

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman, that’s me.

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud

When you see me passing

It ought to make you proud.

I say

It’s in the click of my heels, the bend of my hair

the palm of my hand, the need of my care

‘Cause I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman, that’s me

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

A free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wing

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn

and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.

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'll 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.

Woman Work

I've got the children to tend

The clothes to mend

The floor to mop

The food to shop

Then the chicken to fry

The baby to dry

I got company to feed

The garden to weed

I've got shirts to press

The tots to dress

The can to be cut

I gotta clean up this hut

Then see about the sick

And the cotton to pick.

Shine on me, sunshine

Rain on me, rain

Fall softly, dewdrops

And cool my brow again.

Storm, blow me from here

With your fiercest wind

Let me float across the sky

'Till I can rest again.

Fall gently, snowflakes

Cover me with white

Cold icy kisses and

Let me rest tonight.

Sun, rain, curving sky

Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone

Star shine, moon glow

You're all that I can call my own.

Touched By An Angel

We, unaccustomed to courage

exiles from delight

live coiled in shells of loneliness

until love leaves its high holy temple

and comes into our sight

to liberate us into life.

Love arrives

and in its train come ecstasies

old memories of pleasure

ancient histories of pain.

Yet if we are bold,

love strikes away the chains of fear

from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity

In the flush of love's light

we dare be brave

And suddenly we see

that love costs all we are

and will ever be.

Yet it is only love

which sets us free.

Million Man March Poem

The night has been long,

The wound has been deep,

The pit has been dark,

And the walls have been steep.

Under a dead blue sky on a distant beach,

I was dragged by my braids just beyond your reach.

Your hands were tied, your mouth was bound,

You couldn't even call out my name.

You were helpless and so was I,

But unfortunately throughout history

You've worn a badge of shame.

I say, the night has been long,

The wound has been deep,

The pit has been dark

And the walls have been steep.

But today, voices of old spirit sound

Speak to us in words profound,

Across the years, across the centuries,

Across the oceans, and across the seas.

They say, draw near to one another,

Save your race.

You have been paid for in a distant place,

The old ones remind us that slavery's chains

Have paid for our freedom again and again.

The night has been long,

The pit has been deep,

The night has been dark,

And the walls have been steep.

The hells we have lived through and live through still,

Have sharpened our senses and toughened our will.

The night has been long.

This morning I look through your anguish

Right down to your soul.

I know that with each other we can make ourselves whole.

I look through the posture and past your disguise,

And see your love for family in your big brown eyes.

I say, clap hands and let's come together in this meeting ground,

I say, clap hands and let's deal with each other with love,

I say, clap hands and let us get from the low road of indifference,

Clap hands, let us come together and reveal our hearts,

Let us come together and revise our spirits,

Let us come together and cleanse our souls,

Clap hands, let's leave the preening

And stop impostering our own history.

Clap hands, call the spirits back from the ledge,

Clap hands, let us invite joy into our conversation,

Courtesy into our bedrooms,

Gentleness into our kitchen,

Care into our nursery.

The ancestors remind us, despite the history of pain

We are a going-on people who will rise again.

And still we rise.

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.



In what other lives or lands

Have I known your lips

Your Hands

Your Laughter brave


Those sweet excesses that

I do adore.

What surety is there

That we will meet again,

On other worlds some

Future time undated.

I defy my body's haste.

Without the promise

Of one more sweet encounter

I will not deign to die.