Famous Family Poem

In "Old Folks Laugh," Maya Angelou explores a freedom that comes with old age. The poem contrasts the constrained and self-conscious behavior of young people with the unbridled laughter in old age. The imagery in the poem is vivid, describing the belly of old folks that jiggle like tambourines when they laugh, and their heads that wobble on brittle necks. The poem suggests that laughter allows the elderly to let go of their past regrets and pain and embrace the joy of the moment. Additionally, the poem implies that old folks have a certain wisdom, having lived through the best and the worst of times.

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Famous Poem

Old Folks Laugh

Maya Angelou By more Maya Angelou

They have spent their
content of simpering,
holding their lips this
and that way, winding
the lines between
their brows. Old folks
allow their bellies to jiggle like slow
The hollers
rise up and spill
over any way they want.
When old folks laugh, they free the world.
They turn slowly, slyly knowing
the best and the worst
of remembering.
Saliva glistens in
the corners of their mouths,
their heads wobble
on brittle necks, but
their laps
are filled with memories.
When old folks laugh, they consider the promise
of dear painless death, and generously
forgive life for happening
to them.


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