P / P Poetry: Three Poems from Alice Walker’s Once

Once by Alice Walker

I like to ask questions. Many times, I like to request suggestions when it comes to what I read. The suggestions don’t have to be super informed, like a reader knowing the history of a book or the understanding of the way it influenced culture and society. Sometimes, I just want to hear a reader’s pure personal opinion, no matter how simplistic.

I bought this book because a young writer and bookstore staffer responded to my question of which of two poetry collections I should purchase (I won’t reveal what the other book I was considering was because I deeply respect both poets), by simply expressing that she loved Alice Walker. That was good enough for me in that instance. I trusted her admiration. Many people admire Alice Walker, but I knew this person was an avid reader and a good writer, whose work I am a fan of. I began to read the book and was glad I trusted her opinion.

Without further ado, here are three poems I enjoy from Alice Walker’s Once:


To love a man wholly

love him

feet first

head down

eyes cold


in depression.


It is too easy to love

a suffer

white eyes

godliness &


in the bright sun. – p. 68



Very proud

he barely asked directions

to a nearby


but no


little village chief

should spend his

first night

in chilly London

alone. – p. 69


MORNINGS / of an impossible love

On the morning you woke beside me—already thinking of going away—the sun did not fill my window as it does most mornings. Instead there was cloud and threat of snow. How I wish it could always be this way—that on mornings he cannot come himself, the sun might send me you.

Watching you frown at your face in the mirror this morning I almost thought you disapproved of the little dark shadow standing behind you its arms around your waist…

Two mornings ago you left my little house. Only two steps from my fingers & you were gone, swallowed down swiftly by my spiral stairs.

Why do you wish to give me over to someone else? “Such and such young man you’re sure to like” you say “for he is a fine, cheerful fellow, very sensitive” and one thing and another. Sometimes, it is as if you’d never listened to my heartbeat, never heard my breathing in your ear, never seen in my eyes when you say such things….

This is what you told me once. Must I believe you? “We are really Easterners, you and I. The rising of the Sun brings with it our whole Philosophy.” p. 51-59


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