Woman Work | Maya Angelou

In honor of women everywhere who, against all odds, hold life together one day at a time. In this poem, Maya Angelou speaks for women everywhere – country, town, city, suburbs. My brief comments follow.

I’ve got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry
The baby to dry
I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I’ve got the shirts to press
The tots to dress
The cane to be cut
I gotta clean up this hut
Then see about the sick
And the cotton to pick.

Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.

Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
Till I can rest again.

Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.
Sun, rain, curving sky

Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
Your’re all that I can call my own.

I’ve got to open the shop
Harvest the crop
Clean out the pool
Visit the jail
Get to the school
Teach all the classes
Pick up the mail
Raise food for the masses
I’ve got children to tend
The clothes to mend
I got to
I got to
I got to

Maya Angelou, in Poetry for Young People, p. 19
Published by Sterling Children’s Books in 2013

I resonate with Maya Angelou’s emphasis on the role of nature. Not simply as the truly beautiful and awe-inspiring reality it is, but as solace. A power that takes us out of ourselves. Or better, helps us find our true selves. Not as any human being, but as the one-of-a-kind person each of us was created to be.

True, nature sometimes wreaks horrific havoc. Yet not even Angelou’s “fiercest wind” meets the standard for tornado or tsunami status. Rather, she sees changes of weather as invitations to reconnect with nature. Not to slack off, but to rest in the only thing she can “call my own.”

Finally, did you notice how the poem loops back to the top near the very end?

If you’d like to know more about how we’ve failed worldwide to account for women’s unpaid work, check out this June 2018 article.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 March 2019
Photo found at newsdeeply.com in an article on women’s unpaid work