“Taking my Seat” by Alice Walker

As I mentioned, I’ve really been enjoying Alice Walker’s collection of poetry Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart.

I think that it’s wonderful to enjoy individual poems, and that is usually how I like to read them. But it’s also interesting to read poems as a collection. You get a different sense of how the poet is wrestling with certain ideas and themes.

Reading Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart from beginning to end, I can see that Walker has a deep love and sympathy for oppressed people worldwide and a deep desire to tell their stories. As she puts their beauty, resilience, innocence and suffering in front of you, she also calls the reader not to be blind to the causes of their suffering. She will not let you be satisfied with a lovely poem, she wants you to be changed by it.

I was hard for me to pick just one poem to share, so I chose two (okay three). I love how Walker uses very few words and short lines to create her images. In “Taking My Seat” I love how brave and lovely this poem is. “The Mother of Trees” I think is a great example of what I mean by the way Walker uses beautiful imagery and metaphor, but doesn’t let you just enjoy the image, she exposes you to the pain and problems of the world without relief or comfort.

Taking My Seat

Taking my seat
I bow
to my arrow.

Breathing in
I thank my teachers
who are
all around me.

Breathing out
I thank them

The Mother of Trees

If I could be
the mother of Wind
Would blow all fear
away from you.

If I could be
the mother of Water
I would wash out the path
that frightens you.

If I were the mother
of Trees
I would plant
my tallest children
around your feet
that you might
beyond all danger.

But alas,
I am only
a mother of humans
whose magic powers
have vanished
since we allow
our littlest ones
to face injustice
& the unholiest
of terrors

Also, as a bonus, I noticed that one of the first collections of poetry I bought and read all the way through was Revolutionary Petunias, also by Alice Walker.

While Love is Unfashionable

for Mel

While love is unfashionable
let us live
Seeing the world
a complex ball
in small hands;
love our blackest garment.
Let us be poor
in all but truth, and courage
handed down
by the old spirits.
Let us be intimate with ancestral ghosts
and music
of the undead.

While love is dangerous
let us walk bareheaded
beside the Great River.
Let us gather blossoms
under fire.

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