We all claim some part of her-
memory word reflection.
And why not? She invited us all
to a place at the table. “Do you think”
she uncrossed her arms and asked,
allowing one of those deep pregnant
pauses to divide her words into rivers
of thought and feelings
“you are the only one to have suffered
the loss of love? Of a child? Or missed
the rent? Or gotten fired? Well…read
the Black poets and you won’t feel
so alone. Muted with pain, she
taught us how to sing. Constrained
by fire, she worked up steps to leap
across the flames and dance.
In all her words: a great heartbeat.
She was the voice of past. Present.
Future. How freedom could ring
in those syllables. How she could say
what we all need to hear. Brothers.
Sisters. In her name let’s scoot our
chairs a little closer to the table.
~ Kathleen Cain
Kathleen Cain is a native Nebraskan who has lived in Colorado since 1972. Her nonfiction book The Cottonwood Tree: An American Champion ( ) was selected for the Nebraska 150 Books Project. Two of her poems appeared in Nebraska Poetry:A Sesquicentennial Anthology 1867 -2017.
Guest Editor Annette Hope Billings is an award-winning author and actress whose dynamic style of reciting has led fans to dub her “Maya of the Midwest!” Her first book of poetry, A Net Full of Hope (2015), garnered the 2015 ARTSConnect ARTY Award in Literature in Topeka, Kansas. Descants for a Daughter followed in 2016 and serves as a collection of affirmations from a parent’s heart. Billings most recent publication is Just Shy of Stars (Spartan Press, 2018). Her poetry and short stories also appears in the following anthologies: Gimme Your Lunch Money: Heartland Poets Respond to Bullying (2016), Twisting Topeka (2016), Our Last Walk: Using Poetry for Grieving and Remembering Our Pets (2016), and Kansas Time + Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Balkans Press, 2017) and Revealed (2017). Billings’ poetry can also be found in both online and print publications including Inscape/Washburn University, Coal City Press, Microburst and Konza Magazine.
8 thoughts on “At the Table — by Kathleen Cain”
Wonderful tribute to Maya Angelou and fine, hopeful ending!
Hello, Pat – I am just now finding/reading these comments – 1/1021, so please don’t think I’ve been ignoring you for three years! Thank you for taking time to read and comment. Much appreciated.
As my family used to joke, “Pull up a chair and sit on the floor.” — Dear Lord, what would Maya say now? She would sure have had something piercing to say.
Hello again, John – as with the other poem, just now finding & reading these comments. Yes, Maya would surely have something to share with us. So grateful for the wisdom she gave the world.
You brought Maya to us in this bright poem. Thanks.
Hello, poet of a certain age – as with the other poem, I am just now finding these comments on 1/10/21 (what a gift in these less-than-bright days). I am so grateful for what Maya Angelou taught us. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Love this poem, especially the strong ending!
Hello, J – I am just now finding and reading the comments here, so don’t think I’ve been ignoring you for three years! Thank you so much for taking time to comment.