When You Come, Maya Angelou: Summary & Analysis

"When You Come" by Maya Angelou is a poignant and introspective poem that explores the emotional impact of revisiting memories and past experiences. The poem delves into themes of nostalgia, longing, and the complex emotions associated with the past.

When You Come by Maya Angelou

When you come to me, unbidden,
Beckoning me
To long-ago rooms,
Where memories lie.
Offering me, as to a child, an attic,
Gatherings of days too few.
Baubles of stolen kisses.
Trinkets of borrowed loves.
Trunks of secret words,


"When You Come" is an introspective poem that portrays the emotional response of the speaker to the act of revisiting memories and experiences from the past. The poem conveys the bittersweet feelings and the intense emotions evoked by the recollection of moments that have been left behind.

Critical Analysis

"When You Come" delves into the complexity of emotions that arise when one is confronted with the past, especially when revisiting memories that were long forgotten or deliberately suppressed.

The poem begins with the image of someone coming to the speaker "unbidden," beckoning her to revisit "long-ago rooms" where memories are stored. The act of beckoning implies a powerful force that pulls the speaker into the past, regardless of her readiness or willingness to confront it.

The metaphor of an "attic" suggests a place of storage and accumulation, where memories and experiences are kept. The idea of offering memories "as to a child" implies vulnerability and innocence, as well as a sense of revisiting moments that were experienced with a certain naivety.

The imagery of "Baubles of stolen kisses" and "Trinkets of borrowed loves" captures the fleeting nature of certain romantic experiences and the sense of impermanence associated with stolen moments and borrowed affections.

The mention of "Trunks of secret words" suggests the weight of unspoken truths and unexpressed feelings that were concealed or kept hidden. The idea of secrets stored in trunks implies the depth of emotions that remain locked away.

The poem's concluding line, "I CRY," encapsulates the emotional response of the speaker to the memories that have resurfaced. This line carries a profound sense of vulnerability, as the act of revisiting the past elicits strong and often overwhelming emotions.

Themes of the Poem

  • Nostalgia: The poem explores the nostalgic pull of revisiting memories from the past, and the mix of emotions that accompanies this act.
  • Emotional Resonance: The poem conveys the depth of emotion that can be triggered by memories, highlighting the lasting impact of past experiences on the speaker's emotional landscape.
  • Confronting the Past: The poem grapples with the idea of confronting the past, even when the memories are difficult or painful.

Stylistic Analysis

  • Imagery: The vivid imagery of "long-ago rooms," "attic," "Baubles of stolen kisses," and "Trinkets of borrowed loves" adds depth and texture to the speaker's reflections.
  • Metaphorical Language: Metaphors like "an attic" and "Trunks of secret words" enrich the poem's exploration of memory and emotional resonance.


  • Nostalgia and Longing: The poem captures the sense of nostalgia and longing that arise when confronting memories from the past.
  • Emotional Vulnerability: The concluding line "I CRY" signifies the speaker's emotional vulnerability and the powerful impact of the memories.


  • Symbolism: The use of symbols like "attic," "Baubles," "Trinkets," and "Trunks" adds layers of meaning to the poem's exploration of memory and experiences.

Sound Devices

  • Imagery: The poem's vivid imagery contributes to its emotional resonance, creating an auditory and sensory experience for the reader.

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