When I was young, I used to
Watch behind the curtains
As men walked up and down the street. Wino men, old men.
Young men sharp as mustard.
See them. Men are always
Going somewhere.
They knew I was there. Fifteen
Years old and starving for them.
Under my window, they would pause,
Their shoulders high like the
Breasts of a young girl,
Jacket tails slapping over
Those behinds,

One day they hold you in the
Palms of their hands, gentle, as if you
Were the last raw egg in the world. Then
They tighten up. Just a little. The
First squeeze is nice. A quick hug.
Soft into your defenselessness. A little
More. The hurt begins. Wrench out a
Smile that slides around the fear. When the
Air disappears,
Your mind pops, exploding fiercely, briefly,
Like the head of a kitchen match. Shattered.
It is your juice
That runs down their legs. Staining their shoes.
When the earth rights itself again,
And taste tries to return to the tongue,
Your body has slammed shut. Forever.
No keys exist.

Then the window draws full upon
Your mind. There, just beyond
The sway of curtains, men walk.
Knowing something.
Going someplace.
But this time, I will simply
Stand and watch.


Analysis, meaning and summary of Maya Angelou's poem Men


  1. Rachelle says:

    I feel that this peom have a very strong message in it. I feel that women should read this poem. Yes it may make some uncomfortable but that uncomforable feeling might just help a woman or even a young girl be carful of who they trust.. because in an instant the thing most precious could be taken from you and you cant get it back…

  2. Nicole Thurmond says:

    I read this poem for a assinment awhat i;m getting is men grabs our attention get what they want and drop us like a bad hab

  3. Nicole Thurmond says:

    I read this poem for assignment what I’m getting is that men grabs our attention get what they want and drop us like a bad habit. Love your self ladies.

  4. Sugar says:

    I’m commenting from St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands.
    We are not listed in the country of choice and I want everyone to know how much this poem depicts the life and crticism we have endured on this small island. Men look down on us and prey on our innocence as young women and girls. Maya tells us that we have to protect our daughters as well as our integrity. Well done, I love it….

  5. tiara willingham says:

    this poem is incredible and i ain’t surprised because Mrs. Maya Angelou is one the most inspiring writer to kids like me i am a young poet and i love to write about stuff like that and so much more i thought it would be a great to do this comment i hope Mrs.Angelou sees this

  6. Lisa says:

    This poem is just an example of the maturity of this woman and her remarkable ability to articulate her body’s thoughts, as well as her mind’s. It seems very clear to me. It speaks simply about the complexity of our need for men as well as the distinct differences in our characters. Just obvious talent in this piece. I appreciate being granted the privelege of observing this from Maya’s perspective.

  7. lindsey says:

    This is an amazing piece of poetry. It has such emotion and power. I love it. If you think it’s disgusting, then maybe you are just too immature to read it. Many people can relate to this topic, I’m not one of them, but there’s got to be poems for everything….

  8. ciara says:

    This is the most discusting thing i have ever read in my entire life.I personaly and speaking for many other people too don’t want to hear or read a nasty poem about someone getting raped.The only reason i was looking at poems was because i was doing a research project and hoped to find an interesting yet appropriate poem for school. This poem looked interesting because I thought it would be like ” oh men are hot but there still stupid ” this would still be true and how all women feel from 6th grade and up!! That was so gross and I know that it really happened to her but that doesn’t mean that she has to write about it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Lillian says:

    Maya probably derived her inspiration for this from when she was raped when she was ten. I think it was her uncle or something. She grasped the entire event and let us relive it through her poem. Exceptional.

  10. ianA says:

    This peom was deep, it brings to light one of the most darkest memories… very good interpretation “Jake” if i didnt know any better i’d think you’ve experienced it before…

  11. Trin says:

    I honestly thought this poem was so wack. This poem Made absolutely no since at all.

  12. Keke says:

    Everything that you wrote in this poem about men is so true. I actually understood this poem and it is also very creative.

  13. Jake says:

    When I read this poem for the first time, I was shocked! The details of how the girl is starving for the men outside. How she stares at men’s shoulders as men stare at young women’s breasts! And how the girl is jealous of the suit that gets to feel that sexy butt also shows that she wants sex. Furthermore, I was amazed to see how Maya Angelou goes into the details of the rape!
    So here is how I interpreted it: The girl is only 15 – she is desperate to have a man in her life. She is “starving” (desperate) for a man. I think this girl is too timid. She falls for this one guy and she thinks she is the most special girl in the world. Unfortunately, the man just wants to have sex with her. He just wants her body. She is raped and she feels her “juices” coming out of her which I believe is her blood since it says that her mind pops – which can really be saying that she has just lost her virginity to this stranger. Wow! And the juices land on the man’s shoes. Obviously they were not lying on the shoes when he raped her rather he was raping her standing which emphasizes even more how badly she was raped. Her soul was deeply damaged. Therefore she feels there is “no keys” that can open her up. she will never forget how she was raped. Plus she can never get her virginity back and she hates herself for it.
    Finally when she comes down (which could be many weeks later or longer), she obviously still regrets letting that man into her life BUT when the poem ends with “maybe”, that is just really amazing because it shows how people try to forget the bad events in their lives but sometimes they forget the lessons that they SHOULD remember.
    This poem greatly impressed me. I think the way Maya wrote this poem was very focused on physical things to show that one should never see things purely on how they appear. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
    And she is warning all females that they should be very careful and cautious when it comes to dealing with men. Rape is traumatizing! Anyone who experiences it is shocked by it! Your soul is being intruded. It’s a very scary thought. WOW! Great poem!

    I’m in my second year of college.
    If anyone wants to email me, my email address is firestorm613@yahoo.com

  14. Britt Bratt says:

    Men…What can U Say? They have the power to stir up an unknown fascination. At the same time, they can take everything you feel worthy. Maya Angelou intensifies their use of power, ending the poem with a maybe leading me to believe she may actually go through it again.

  15. KIM says:

    I have recently started reading your work Maya and i have never ever read anything like it.you are the mom and dad i have not been fourtunate to have in one i hope i grow up to be all that i can be in all my naturalness and be true to myself always.you are a blessing to us young people and inspire me to want to grow be a lady with class and intergrity. love the poem thankyou again for everything with love xxxxxxxxx

  16. omid says:

    i love the poem so much.it’s so real that i can make sense it.it’s a real poem.

  17. Georgianna says:

    I enjoyed this poem, it immediately began to tantilize my senses….men! This poem spoke to me of awareness and the levels of awarness that exist. All men have good and evil it’s for us to be aware…for the young woman in the poem and for so many of us that awarness is only opened with experience…sometimes good sometimes not so good…but life goes on so we must go on.

  18. Del Cooley says:

    I really love this poem. I think that it’s speaking of the innocence and vulnerability of a young woman when noticing and dealing with a man for the first time. While growing up sometimes all we hear are the knight in shining armor stories about men and love, never imagining that there could be a not so pleasant side to it.

  19. Stephanie says:

    I have to say you are beauiful in every word that you write. I believe this poem is about the rape of a little girl becoming women before her time. I would know cause I was like this little girl watching the men pass by and wondering if life would deal for me. Thank you Maya for writing my feeling and my pain.

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