Maya Angelou as one touched by an angel

Maya Angelou died yesterday, aged 86. She was born poor and black and her gifts were born out of pain and hardship. She knew why the caged bird sings. Her son, Guy, writes: “she was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace.” She helped many through the passion, hope, humour and compassion of her autobiographies and poetry. She is a wise woman of our age, and eminently quotable. On this Ascension Day I choose her poem Touched by an Angel to remember a woman who had a love with the power to live and see through so much.

Touched by an Angel

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and 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 all will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

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