Phenomenal Woman – Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014)

When I was 11, I went to live with my grandmother. I was full of surly feelings and lost in what I wanted that I could not have. My grandmother posted this poem on the inside of my bedroom door without so much as a word, and I had to read it every time I went to leave that room. At first I scoffed, but little by little, these words crept in. I wanted to be this woman she spoke of. I wanted to be amazing. I wanted to be.. phenomenal.

I later asked her if there was more by this author and she handed I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which I read with fury. My child’s mind was a like a chrysalis and that book allowed me to break free.

Thank you, Maya Angelou, for giving a scared and lost little girl some direction.


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 in 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.

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