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A Plagued Journey

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There is no warning rattle at the door   
nor heavy feet to stomp the foyer boards.   
Safe in the dark prison, I know that   
light slides over
the fingered work of a toothless   
woman in Pakistan.
Happy prints of
an invisible time are illumined.   
My mouth agape
rejects the solid air and
lungs hold. The invader takes   
direction and
seeps through the plaster walls.   
It is at my chamber, entering   
the keyhole, pushing
through the padding of the door.   
I cannot scream. A bone
of fear clogs my throat.
It is upon me. It is
sunrise, with Hope
its arrogant rider.
My mind, formerly quiescent
in its snug encasement, is strained
to look upon their rapturous visages,   
to let them enter even into me.   
I am forced
outside myself to
mount the light and ride joined with Hope.

Through all the bright hours   
I cling to expectation, until   
darkness comes to reclaim me
as its own. Hope fades, day is gone   
into its irredeemable place
and I am thrown back into the familiar   
bonds of disconsolation.
Gloom crawls around
lapping lasciviously
between my toes, at my ankles,   
and it sucks the strands of my   
hair. It forgives my heady   
fling with Hope. I am
joined again into its
greedy arms.

Maya Angelou, “A Plagued Journey” from Shaker, Why Don't You Sing? Copyright © 1983 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)
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A Plagued Journey

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