When Great Trees Fall (Poem by Maya Angelou)

When Great Trees Fall (Poem by Maya Angelou)

When Great Trees Fall

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
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.

by Maya Angelou


I work to amplify good wherever I find it. I love color, texture, beauty, great ideas, nature, metaphor, deliciousness, genuine spirituality, and exploring new territory. I encourage authenticity, nurture creativity, champion sustainability, promote peace, and hope to foster a new renaissance where we all are free to be our most fulfilled, multifaceted, and terrific selves. Read more here.


  1. Diane W 4 years ago

    I’d never heard anything about her before as I am in another country but it seems she was a woman of not only high position but high principles and that is indeed rare these days .

    • Author
      Polly Castor 4 years ago

      A tower of power that will be sorely missed.

  2. John gregory 4 years ago

    She is missed.

    • Mary Beth Williams 4 years ago

      Such a profoundly appropriate and deeply moving poem, bless your precious heart Polly, for sharing all of these gems with us! ❤️🙏🏻❤️🙏🏻 Thank you so much sweetie! 💐🦋🌸💝

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