Poetry Friday: “When Great Trees Fall”

Welcome to Poetry Friday! Today we journey through grief with Maya Angelou. I love the cadence of her words and her connection to the natural world. As I reflect on the early days after Rob’s death, Angelou’s description of grief especially rings true to me.

I wonder where you find yourself in today’s poem. Does memory gnaw at you? Does your soul feel wizen? As you consider the arc of your loved one’s life story, do you begin to feel that soothing electric vibration Angelou describes, the feeling of life returning to your body? I hope you enjoy these timeless words from one of America’s great poetesses.

When Great Trees Fall

by Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,

rocks on distant hills shudder,

lions hunker down

in tall grasses,

and even elephants

lumber after safety.

When great trees fall

in forests,

small things recoil into silence,

their senses

eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,

the air around us becomes

light, rare, sterile.

We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,

see with

a hurtful clarity.

Our memory, suddenly sharpened,


gnaws on kind words


promised walks

never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance, fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of
dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

Published by Clarissa Moll

Discovering grace in grief

2 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “When Great Trees Fall”

  1. My favorite “Poetry Friday” poem so far. It brought back so many memories of Rob, and I only knew him less than three years.

    Isn’t the ending perfect? Our senses will be restored. We won’t be the same. We will be changed. Better for knowing them.

    I am praying for restoration for you and all of Rob’s family.

    Thanks for sharing this.

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