Once: Poems [NOOK Book]

Overview

Alice Walker’s first published book collects poems written as a student and on her first visit to Africa 

For readers seeking the origins of Alice Walker’s potent, distinctive voice, this collection will provide ample insight. Composed while she was still a student at Sarah Lawrence College in the late 1960s, these poems are already engaged with some of the moral dilemmas that have defined Walker’s entire career. Luminous vignettes from ...
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Once: Poems

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Overview

Alice Walker’s first published book collects poems written as a student and on her first visit to Africa 

For readers seeking the origins of Alice Walker’s potent, distinctive voice, this collection will provide ample insight. Composed while she was still a student at Sarah Lawrence College in the late 1960s, these poems are already engaged with some of the moral dilemmas that have defined Walker’s entire career. Luminous vignettes from her first trip to Africa give way to reflections on the flourishing civil rights movement, while an eye for the transformative power of love and beauty run through all twenty-seven entries. Walker’s talents are prodigious, yet it’s her pure moral and aesthetic clarity that impress most in this debut work. 

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Alice Walker including rare photos from the author’s personal collection.

Poems by a young American about Africa and civil rights conflict in the South.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781453224014
  • Publisher: Open Road
  • Publication date: 11/22/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 86
  • Sales rank: 754,378
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Alice Walker (b. 1944), one of the United States’ preeminent writers, is an award-winning author of novels, stories, essays, and poetry. In 1983, Walker became the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction with her novel The Color Purple, which also won the National Book Award. Her other novels include The Third Life of Grange Copeland, Meridian, The Temple of My Familiar, and Possessing the Secret of Joy. In her public life, Walker has worked to address problems of injustice, inequality, and poverty as an activist, teacher, and public intellectual.

Biography

Alice Walker won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for her novel The Color Purple, which was preceded by The Third Life of Grange Copeland and Meridian. Her other bestselling novels include By the Light of My Father's Smile, Possessing the Secret of Joy and The Temple of My Familiar. She is also the author of two collections of short stories, three collections of essays, five volumes of poetry and several children's books. Her books have been translated into more than two dozen languages. Born in Eatonton, Georgia, Walker now lives in Northern California.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Alice Malsenior Walker (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Mendocino, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 9, 1944
    2. Place of Birth:
      Eatonton, Georgia
    1. Education:
      B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1965; attended Spelman College, 1961-63

Read an Excerpt

Once

Poems


By Alice Walker

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1968 Alice Walker
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-2401-4



CHAPTER 1

AFRICAN IMAGES


    Glimpses from a Tiger's Back

    i


    Beads around my neck
    Mt. Kenya away over pineappled hills
    Kikuyuland.

    ii

    A book of poems
    Mt. Kenya's
    Bluish peaks
    "Wangari!"
    My new name.

    iii

    A green copse
    And hovering
    Quivering
    Near our bus
    A shy gazelle.

    iv

    morning mists
    On the road
    an Elephant
    He knows
    his rights.

    v

    A strange noise!
    "Perhaps an elephant
    is eating our roof"
    In the morning
    much blue.

    vi

    A tall warrior
    and at his feet
    only
    Elephant bones.

    vii

    Elephant legs
    In a store
    To hold
    Umbrellas.

    viii

    A young man
    Puts a question
    In his language
    I invariably
    End up
    Married.

    ix

    The clear Nile
    A fat crocodile
    Scratches his belly
    And yawns.

    x

    The rain forest
    Red orchids—glorious!
    And near one's eyes
    The spinning cobra.

    xi

    A small boat
    A placid lake
    Suddenly at one's hand
    Two ears—
    Hippopotamus.

    xii

    An ocean of grass
    A sea of sunshine
    And near my hand
    Water buffalo.

    xiii

    See! through the trees!
    A leopard in
    the branches—
    No, only a giraffe
    Munching his dinner.

    xiv

    Fast rapids
    Far below
    Begins
    The lazy Nile.

    xv

    A silent lake
    Bone strewn banks
    Luminous
    In the sun.

    xvi

    Uganda mountains
    Black soil
    White snow
    And in the valley
    Zebra.

    xvii

    African mornings
    Are not for sleeping
    In the early noon
    The servant comes
    To wake me.

    xviii

    Very American
    I want to eat
    The native food—
    But a whole goat!

    xix

    Holding three fingers
    The African child
    Looked up at me
    The sky was very Blue.

    xx

    In the dance
    I see a girl
    Go limp
    "It is a tactic"
    I think.

    xxi

    "America!?" "Yes."
    "But you are like
    my aunt's cousin
    who married so-and-so."
    "Yes, (I say), I know."

    xxii

    On my knees
    The earringed lady
    Thinks I'm praying
    She drops her sisal
    and runs.

    xxiii

    "You are a Negro?"
        "Yes"
    "But that is a kind
    of food—isn't it—
    the white man used to
    eat you???"
        "Well—"

    xxiv

    Unusual things amuse us
    A little African girl
    Sees my white friend
    And runs
    She thinks he wants her
    For his dinner.

    xxv

    The fresh corpse
    Of a white rhinoceros
    His horn gone
    Some Indian woman
    Will be approached
    Tonight.

    xxvi

    The man in the
    Scarlet shirt
    Wanted to talk
    but had no words—
    I had words
    but no Scarlet
    Shirt.

    xxvii

    floating shakily down the
    nile
    on my rented raft
    I try to be a native
    queen
    a prudent giraffe
    on the bank
    turns up
        his nose.

    xxviii

    We eat Metoke
    with three fingers—
    other things
    get two fingers
    and one of those
    a thumb.

    xxix

    That you loved me
    I felt sure
    Twice you asked
    me gently
    if I liked the
    strange
    gray
    stew.

    xxx

    Pinching both my legs
    the old man kneels
    before me on the
    ground
    his head white
    Ah! Africa's mountain
    Peaks
    Snow to grace
    eternal spring!

    xxxi

    To build a hut
    One needs mud
    and sisal
    And friendly
    Neighbors.

    xxxii

    Where the glacier was
    A lake
    Where the lake is
    Sunshine
    And redheaded
    Marabou storks.

    xxxiii

    On a grumpy day
    An African child
    Chants "good morning"
    —I have never seen
    Such bright sun!

    xxxiv

    The Nairobi streets
    At midnight
    Deserted
    The hot dog man
    Folds up his cart.

    xxxv

    In Nairobi
    I pestered an
    Indian boy to
    Sell me a
    Hat
    For five shillings—
    How bright
    His eyes were!

    xxxvi

    In a kunzu
    Long and white
    Stands my African
    Dad
    The sound of drums
    Fills
    The air!

    xxxvii

    On my brother's motorcycle
    The Indian mosques
    And shops fade behind us
    My hair takes flight
    He laughs
    He has not seen such hair
    Before.

    xxxviii

    An African girl
    Gives me a pineapple
    Her country's national
    Flower
    How proudly she
    Blinks the eye
    Put out
    By a sharp pineapple
    Frond.
    I wonder if I should
    Kneel
    At her bare little
    Feet?

    xxxix

    At first night
    I sat alone
    & watched the
    sun set
    behind
    the
    aberdares
    During
    the day
    my legs
    and the sun
    belonged
    to
    the village
    children.

    xl

    Under the moon
    luminous
    huts....
    Brown breasts stuck
    out to taunt
    the sullen wind.

    xli

    A crumbling hut ...
    in the third
    room
    a red chenille
    bedspread
    (by Cannon)
    a cracked
    jar
    of violet
        lilies
        (by?)

    xlii

    The native women
    thought me
    strange
    until they
    saw me follow you
    to your hut.

    xliii

    In Kampala
    the young king
    goes often
    to Church
    the young girls here
    are
    So pious.

    xliv

    Settled behind
    tall banana trees
    the little hut
    is overcovered
    by their leaves
    patiently it waits
    for autumn
    which never comes....

    xlv

    in my journal
    I thought I could
    capture
    everything....
    Listen!
    the soft wings of cranes
    sifting the salt sea
    air.


    LOVE

    i

    A dark stranger
    My heart searches
    Him out
    "Papa!"

    ii

    An old man in white
    Calls me "mama"
    It does not take much
    To know
    He wants me for
    His wife—
    He has no teeth
    But is kind.

    iii

    The American from
    Minnesota
    Speaks Harvardly
    of Revolution—
    Men of the Mau Mau
    Smile
    Their fists holding
    Bits of
    Kenya earth.

    iv

    A tall Ethiopian
    Grins at me
    The grass burns
    My bare feet.

    v

    Drums outside
    My window
    Morning whirls
    In
    I have danced all
    Night.

    vi

    The bearded Briton
    Wears a shirt of
    Kenya flags
    I am at home
    He says.

    vii

    Down the hill
    A grove of trees
    And on this spot
    The magic tree.

    viii

    The Kenya air!
    Miles of hills
    Mountains
    And holding both
    My hands
    A Mau Mau leader.

    ix

    And in the hut
    The only picture—
    Of Jesus

    x

    Explain to the
    Women
    In the village
    That you are
    Twenty
    And belong—
    To no one.


    KARAMOJANS

    i

    A tall man
    Without clothes
    Beautiful
    Like a statue
    Up close
    His eyes
    Are running
    Sores.

    ii

    The Noble Savage
    Erect
    No shoes on his
    feet
    His pierced ears
    Infected.

    iii

    "Quite incredible—
    your hair-do is
    most divine——
    Held together
    With cow dung?
    You mean——?!
    The lady stares
    At her fingers.

    iv

    A proper English meal
    Near the mountains
    "More tea, please"
    Down the street
    A man walks
    Quite completely
    Nude.

    v

    Bare breasts loose
    In the sun
    The skin cracked
    The nipples covered
    With flies
    But she is an old
    Woman
    What?—twenty?

    vi

    A Catholic church
    The chaste cross
    Stark
    Against the purple sky.
    We surprise a
    couple there alone
    In prayer?

    vii

    There is no need for
    Sadness
    After the dying boy
    There is the living girl
    Who throws you a kiss.

    viii

    How bright the little
    girl's
    Eyes were!
    a first sign of
    Glaucoma.

    ix

    The Karamojans
    Never civilized
    A proud people
    I think there
    Are
    A hundred left.


    ONCE

    i

    Green lawn
    a picket fence
    flowers—
    My friend smiles
    she had heard
    that Southern
    jails
    were drab.

    Looking up I see
    a strong arm
    raised
    the Law
    Someone in America
    is being
    protected
        (from me.)

    In the morning
    there was
    a man in grey
    but the sky
    was blue.

    ii

    "Look at that nigger
    with those white folks!"
    My dark
    Arrogant friend
    turns calmly, curiously
    helpfully,
    "Where?" he
    asks.

    It was the fifth
    arrest
    In as many
    days
    How glad I am
    that I can
    look
    surprised
    still.

    iii

    Running down
    Atlanta
    streets
    With my sign
    I see heads
    turn
    Eyes
    goggle
    "a nice girl
    like her!"

    A Negro cook
    assures
    her mistress—
    But I had seen
    the fingers
    near her eyes
    wet with
    tears.

    iv

    One day in
    Georgia
    Working around
    the Negro section
    My friend got a
    letter
    in
    the mail
    —the letter
    said
    "I hope you're
    having a good
    time fucking all
    the niggers."

    "Sweet," I winced.
    "Who
    wrote it?"

    "mother."
    she
    said.

    That day she sat
    a long time
    a little black girl
    in pigtails
    on her lap

    Her eyes were very
    Quiet.

    She used to tell the big colored ladies
    her light eyes just
    the same
    "I am alone
    my mother died."
    Though no other
    letter
    came.

    v

    It is true—
    I've always loved
    the daring
    ones
    Like the black young
    man
    Who tried
    to crash
    All barriers
    at once,
    wanted to
    Swim
    At a white
    beach (in Alabama)
    Nude.

    vi

    Peter always
    thought
    the only
    way to
    "enlighten"
    southern towns
    was to
    introduce
    himself
    to
    the county
    sheriff
    first thing.

    Another thing
    Peter wanted—
    was to be
    cremated
    but we
    couldn't
    find him
    when he needed it.

    But he was just a yid
    seventeen.


vii

I
never liked
white folks
really
it
happened quite
suddenly
one
day
A pair of
amber
eyes
I
think
he
had.


    viii

    I don't think
    integration
    entered
    into it
    officer

    You see
    there was
    this little
    Negro
    girl

    Standing here
    alone
    and her
    mother
    went into
    that store
    there

    then—
    there came by
    this little boy
    here
    without his
    mother
    & eating
    an
    ice cream cone
    —see there it is—
    strawberry
    Anyhow
    and the little
    girl was
    hungry
    and stronger
    than
    the little
    boy—

    Who is too
    fat
    really,

    anyway.

    ix

    Someone said
    to
    me
    that
    if
    the South
    rises
    again
    it will do so
    "from
    the grave."

    Someone
    else
    said
    if the South
    rises
    again
    he would
    "step on
    it."

    Dick Gregory
    said that
    if the
    South
    rises
    again
    there is
    a
    secret
    plan.

    But I say—
    if the
    South
    rises
    again
    It will not
    do
    so
    in my presence.

    x

    "but I don'
    really
    give a fuck
    Who
    my daughter
    marries—"
    the lady
    was
    adorable—
    it was in a
    tavern
    i remember
    her daughter
    sat there
    beside her
    tugging
    at
    her arm
    sixteen—
    very shy
    and
    very pim
    pled.

    xi

    then there
    was
    the charming
    half-wit
    who told
    the judge
    re: indecent exposure
    "but when I
    step out
    of the
    tub
    I look
    Good—
    just because
    my skin
    is black
    don't mean
    it ain't
    pretty
    you old bastard!)
    what will we
    finally do
    with
    prejudice

    some people like
    to take a walk
    after a bath.

    xii

    "look, honey
    said
    the
    blond
    amply
    boobed
    babe
    in the
    green
    g
    string

    "i like you
    sure
    i ain't
    prejudiced

    but the
    lord didn't
    give me
    legs
    like
    these
    because
    he
    wanted
    to see'm
    dangling
    from a
    poplar!"

    "But they're so
    much
    prettier
    than mine.

    Would you really mind?"
    he asked
    wanting her to dance.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Once by Alice Walker. Copyright © 1968 Alice Walker. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

African Images, Glimpses from a Tiger's Back,
Love,
Karamojans,
Once,
Chic Freedom's Reflection,
South: The Name of Home,
Hymn,
The Democratic Order: Such Things in Twenty Years I Understood,
They Who Feel Death,
On being asked to leave a place of honor for one of comfort,
The Enemy,
Compulsory Chapel,
To the Man in the Yellow Terry,
The Kiss,
What Ovid Taught Me,
Mornings,
So We've Come at Last to Freud,
Johann,
The Smell of Lebanon,
Warning,
The Black Prince,
Medicine,
ballad of the brown girl,
Suicide,
Excuse,
to die before one wakes must be glad,
Exercises on Themes from Life,
A Biography of Alice Walker,

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