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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.

Short Poem Analysis

"When Great Trees Fall" by Maya Angelou is a poignant and heartfelt poem that reflects on the impact of the loss of significant individuals in our lives. Through its metaphorical language and emotional resonance, the poem explores themes of grief, the enduring legacy of loved ones, and the emotional void left behind by their absence.

The poem uses the metaphor of "great trees" to represent influential and significant figures in our lives, such as mentors, leaders, or loved ones. These individuals are described as "great" and symbolize strength, wisdom, and stability.

The opening lines describe the collective response to the loss of these "great trees" as a shaking of the earth, suggesting that their absence creates a profound upheaval in our world.

The poem acknowledges the natural cycle of life and death, stating that "when great souls die, / after a period peace blooms." This reflects the idea that even in the midst of grief, there is a sense of renewal and eventual healing.

Angelou's poem also emphasizes the lasting impact of those who have passed away, stating that their presence remains in "their roots, / their leaves, / their flowers / undiminished."

The poem's tone is one of reverence and respect for those who have left a significant mark on our lives. It encourages us to celebrate their contributions and to find solace in the enduring legacy they leave behind.

" When Great Trees Fall" is a moving and contemplative poem that invites readers to reflect on the profound impact of those who have touched our lives and the sense of loss that accompanies their departure. It acknowledges the natural order of life and death while emphasizing the enduring influence of those we hold dear. The poem ultimately serves as a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of memory and legacy to provide comfort in times of grief.

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