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By Maya Angelou

We were entwined in red rings   

Of blood and loneliness before   

The first snows fell

Before muddy rivers seeded clouds   

Above a virgin forest, and   

Men ran naked, blue and black   

Skinned into the warm embraces   

Of Sheba, Eve and Lilith.

I was your sister.


You left me to force strangers   

Into brother molds, exacting   

Taxations they never

Owed or could ever pay.


You fought to die, thinking   

In destruction lies the seed   

Of birth. You may be right.


I will remember silent walks in   

Southern woods and long talks   

In low voices

Shielding meaning from the big ears   

Of overcurious adults.


You may be right.   

Your slow return from

Regions of terror and bloody

Screams, races my heart.

I hear again the laughter   

Of children and see fireflies   

Bursting tiny explosions in   

An Arkansas twilight.


Maya Angelou, “Kin” from And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Source: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (1994)

Poet Bio

Writer and activist Maya Angelou had a broad and successful career as a streetcar conductor, a dancer, editor, teacher, storyteller, and actress. Born Marguerite Johnson in 1928, she gained fame with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, her 1970 autobiography which speaks courageously of her encounters with racism. One of the best-known writers in America, Angelou read her poem “On the Pulse of the Morning” at the presidential inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1993. She was the first black woman to have a screenplay (Georgia, Georgia) produced in 1972, and she received an Emmy nomination for her performance in Roots in 1977. Angelou wrote the poetry for the 1993 film Poetic Justice, and went on to appear in that film and others, including There Are No Children Here and How to Make an American Quilt. She died in 2014 at the age of 86.

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