Friday, February 27, 2015

I Wish I'd Written This

I Will Keep Broken Things

I will keep broken 
the big clay pot
with raised iguanas
chasing their
tails; two 
of their wise
heads sheared off; 
I will keep broken things:
the old slave market basket brought to
my door by Mississippi a jagged 
hole gouged
in its sturdy dark
oak side.

I will keep broken things:
The memory of
those long delicious night swims with you; 

I will keep broken things:

In my house 
there remains an honored shelf
on which I will keep broken things.

Their beauty is
they need not ever be "fixed."

I will keep your wild
free laughter though it is now missing its
reassuring and
graceful hinge.
I will keep broken things:

Thank you 
So much! 

I will keep broken things. 
I will keep you:
pilgrim of sorrow.

I will keep myself.

Alice Walker is best known as a brilliant novelist, whose novels I love. Her poetry not so much. Perhaps she isn't as good at verse as she is at prose, or perhaps it just isn't my cup of tea. But I do love this one, for its wonderful message and the particular details it lists of things to value.

I first found it at PoemHunter, where it is presented as one of those long, skinny poems with only one or two words per line. They are definitely not my cup of tea! I can seldom see the point. I tried to tell myself that the layout echoed/illustrated the idea of brokenness, but....  I thought the verse breaks rather odd and meaningless, too. 

I was delighted to find it set out as above, accompanying a reading of it she gave to Emory University in 2009. Because it's a university, I imagine they got the text right! Because it's fairly recent, I imagine that if she did write it the other way earlier, the version above is the way she likes it now. (Though, if you have a listen, you will hear her describe the iguanas' heads as 'fierce' rather than 'wise'. I'm sure they were both.)

She is also an activist, and was quoted on social networking recently as saying, 'Activism is my rent for living on the planet.' 

A prolific writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, she is best known as the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Colour Purple. Her Amazon page is here and her official website here.

The link on her name, above, is to the Wikipedia article. There is a longer biography here, with a lovely interview on video.

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. sometimes broken things are our greatest possessions...i love this simplicity and the depth of the verse....thanks Rosemary for introducing her to us....

  2. I truly love this poem. I keep broken things too and all have their memories attached even to the parts of broken me.

  3. all become broken with time. the value of how it was broken, what it was before and after being broken, its value to the broken individual who hoards it.

    wonderful poem, Gracias Rosemary

  4. Thanks for this poem today. And I love her essays, particularly in "In Search of our mother's gardens" where I think the following quote is from: "Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it."

  5. I don't think I'd ever read a poem by Alice Walker. Her poem made me think how I try to fix anything broken or throw it away. Maybe, there's something to keeping a few as memorabelia.

  6. I have long loved Alice Walker, a woman of immense talent. Love this poem, though I do not keep broken things, at least not ones that can be seen or held in the hand. Just my own poor broken self, LOL. I loved this post this morning, Rosemary. Thank you, my friend.

  7. This is a wonderful poem! And a wonderful poet! I have always loved broken things!

  8. nice...while i knew her from color purple i never realized she was a poet until on vacation i stumbled upon a book of her poetry...she actually got me considering some micro poetry after finding one of her books at a library....

  9. I only know her from The Color Purple as well but I did run across this poem somewhere and loved it.

  10. I really like this poem very much. Excellent theme, excellent message. I like the idea that broken things are fine JUST as they are! Thanks for this one, Rosemary.

  11. I really like this piece--and know little of her poetry--so thank you!!

  12. I like the poem and I like the message. Thanks for sharing, Rosemary. A great poem about acceptance.

  13. Resonates...great metaphor...Thank you, Rosemary!

  14. I loved the prompt and all the poems that arrived. I had every intention of writing a poem, but time ran out on me. I've just written a rather rude limerick in French for a seriously ill friend of mine just out of hospital. She has been enjoying limericks sent by English friends, and tried to explain the form to the French nurses. I bet she can't keep a straight face when repeating my rudery to them!

    Il y avait une belle dame, de Soulles,.
    maigrie comme le cul d’une poule.
    De la bonne nourriture
    frites et tarte confiture
    vont gaver la belle dame de Soulles
    She has got very thin, and cul de poule translates as the, ahem, behind of a chicken.
    Gaver is the verb for to stuff an animal with food to fatten it up.

  15. Ahhhhh how absolutely beautiful - reached right into my heart to hold and protect all broken things. A wonderful contribution by a stellar artist and one that I had never read. Thank you so very much Rosemary <3


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