Maya and Me
What is it about Maya Angelou that makes women want her to be their mother? I watched Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey speak at Maya’s memorial and felt they both were grieving the physical loss of a great Soul-Mother. I know, because that’s just how I felt when I heard about Maya Angelou’s passing.
Perhaps anyone who knows Maya (one way or another) feels this way about her. Maya had a powerful presence that reached beyond the physical. In her poetry she could make you feel she was speaking directly to you, speaking about you.
Twenty years ago I had an experience that personally and soulfully connected me to Maya Angelou for all time, and made me want Maya to be my Mother.
I was in college doing the prerequisite courses for becoming a Registered Nurse. One day in my Humanities class we had a substitute teacher who was doing what all substitutes did; he was showing the class a film. About halfway through it he came up to me and handed me a piece of paper.
I want you to look this over, and then read it to the class in about twenty minutes. Don’t worry. He said. It’s a poem, you’ll do fine.
The poem was Phenomenal Woman, by Maya Angelou. I went into a pure panic about having to stand up and publicly recite to a classroom of fifty people. Besides, I have never gotten deeply into poetry. I see this art as a word dance of ecstasy and sorrow choreographed by the human heart and soul, as only a human being can do. The times I tried writing poetry I came away feeling I didn’t write a poem at all, but somehow a poem had written me. I’d heard of Maya’s poetry and was attracted and curious, but Phenomenal Woman was my first.
Standing at the podium with one hundred eyes glued solidly on me, I read Maya’s words, which as I said them seemed to be actually speaking about me…
It’s in the span of my hips… the stride of my step… the fire in my eyes… the arch of my back… the ride of my breasts… the grace of my style… my inner mystery… Phenomenal woman… That’s me.
When I looked up, the class was riveted. The room was so quiet you could’ve heard a gnat sneeze. Everyone had come under the spell of Maya and me.
I think this was because Phenomenal Woman is the Realwoman that everyone is attracted to. She’s the sexy, sensual, voluptuous, sensational, mysterious, self-defined, self-realized, authentic, original, powerfully female-female, apart from the perfect (mostly unattainable) standard of bodily perfection relentlessly imposed upon all females in a sexually exploitive patriarchal world.
Phenomenal Woman is Everywoman.
At Maya’s memorial it was Bill Clinton who put it all into perspective for me. He said God had given Maya His voice. To me, Clinton’s words were like beautiful music played off key. It’s not God at all who was speaking through Maya to His people, it was the Great Mother Goddess speaking to Hers. She’s the one we have all forgotten, but instantly recognize when we see Her. Which is why women like me want to crawl into Maya’s ample lap and drink from Her endless Wisdom-Well. And doesn’t this whole world need a new Mother icon? A brilliant female Superstar to light the way in the dark? Doesn’t Everywoman (and Everyman) need Her now?
So when I call out the names of the Goddesses, which I often do; Sophia– Goddess of Wisdom, Isis– of Mystery and Magic, Kuan Yin– Goddess of Compassion, Aphrodite– of Sexual Truth and Beauty, Kali– Goddess of Death and Rebirth, Gaia– Goddess of Earth……. all of whom I know to be me, I’ll have a new name to be calling out now.
I’ll be calling the name of Maya, Goddess of Everywoman and Everyman.