Good-Bye to a Phenomenal Woman

Maya Angelou

Today the world lost a phenomenal woman- and a phenomenal voice. Maya Angelou died today and the world is poorer for her leaving.

I have been thinking a lot lately of her poem- Phenomenal Woman. For years it has echoed in my head.

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
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

As we are inundated today with images of emaciated models and told to emulate an ideal of beauty that is profoundly damaging, Angelou’s vision of womanhood is nurturing and sustaining.

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
Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Womanhood is not stilted and stunted, contorted into unnatural poses as our fashion magazines display. Angelou rejoiced in the movement and sensuality of womanhood.

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
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

There are so many ways to be a phenomenal woman, to be beautifully and wondrously alive. Angelou was unapologetically woman. She was unbroken and proud. She was beautiful in the fullness of womanhood.

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 for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Every girl, every woman, should read this poem. We are all phenomenal women. Maya Angelou is gone- but her phenomenal voice lives on. May she inspire us all to embrace our phenomenal selves.

We are women
Phenomenally
Phenomenal women,
That’s us.

2 thoughts on “Good-Bye to a Phenomenal Woman

  1. Everything you wrote was beautiful, but this particularly choked me up. “There are so many ways to be a phenomenal woman, to be beautifully and wondrously alive. ”

    Thank you. I feel such pain with her passing. Choking pain. In a strange way it helps to see others feeling it, too!

    • Thank-you for the comment. Yes- I was surprised by how hard her passing hit me (although I follow her feed on facebook and knew she had been ill). A boyfriend gave me a book of her poetry (Phenomenal Woman) when I was 20- I think it helped shape how I saw myself as a woman. I think for all of us- to honor her best we should live truly as ourselves- proudly.

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