Once: Poems

Once: Poems

by Alice Walker

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781453224014
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 11/22/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 86
File size: 4 MB

About 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.


Mendocino, California

Date of Birth:

February 9, 1944

Place of Birth:

Eatonton, Georgia


B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1965; attended Spelman College, 1961-63

Read an Excerpt



By Alice Walker


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



    Glimpses from a Tiger's Back


    Beads around my neck
    Mt. Kenya away over pineappled hills


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


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


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


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


    A tall warrior
    and at his feet
    Elephant bones.


    Elephant legs
    In a store
    To hold


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


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


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


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


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


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


    Fast rapids
    Far below
    The lazy Nile.


    A silent lake
    Bone strewn banks
    In the sun.


    Uganda mountains
    Black soil
    White snow
    And in the valley


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


    That you loved me
    I felt sure
    Twice you asked
    me gently
    if I liked the


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


    To build a hut
    One needs mud
    and sisal
    And friendly


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


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


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


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


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


    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


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


    At first night
    I sat alone
    & watched the
    sun set
    the day
    my legs
    and the sun
    the village


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


    A crumbling hut ...
    in the third
    a red chenille
    (by Cannon)
    a cracked
    of violet


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


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


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


    in my journal
    I thought I could
    the soft wings of cranes
    sifting the salt sea



    A dark stranger
    My heart searches
    Him out


    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.


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


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


    Drums outside
    My window
    Morning whirls
    I have danced all


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


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


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


    And in the hut
    The only picture—
    Of Jesus


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



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


    The Noble Savage
    No shoes on his
    His pierced ears


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


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


    Bare breasts loose
    In the sun
    The skin cracked
    The nipples covered
    With flies
    But she is an old


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


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


    How bright the little
    Eyes were!
    a first sign of


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



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

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

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


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

    It was the fifth
    In as many
    How glad I am
    that I can


    Running down
    With my sign
    I see heads
    "a nice girl
    like her!"

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


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

    "Sweet," I winced.
    wrote it?"


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

    Her eyes were very

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


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


    Peter always
    the only
    way to
    southern towns
    was to
    the county
    first thing.

    Another thing
    Peter wanted—
    was to be
    but we
    find him
    when he needed it.

    But he was just a yid


never liked
white folks
happened quite
A pair of


    I don't think
    into it

    You see
    there was
    this little

    Standing here
    and her
    went into
    that store

    there came by
    this little boy
    without his
    & eating
    ice cream cone
    —see there it is—
    and the little
    girl was
    and stronger
    the little

    Who is too



    Someone said
    the South
    it will do so
    the grave."

    if the South
    he would
    "step on

    Dick Gregory
    said that
    if the
    there is

    But I say—
    if the
    It will not
    in my presence.


    "but I don'
    give a fuck
    my daughter
    the lady
    it was in a
    i remember
    her daughter
    sat there
    beside her
    her arm
    very shy
    very pim


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

    some people like
    to take a walk
    after a bath.


    "look, honey
    in the

    "i like you
    i ain't

    but the
    lord didn't
    give me
    to see'm
    from a

    "But they're so
    than mine.

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


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.

Table of Contents


African Images, Glimpses from a Tiger's Back,
Chic Freedom's Reflection,
South: The Name of Home,
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,
So We've Come at Last to Freud,
The Smell of Lebanon,
The Black Prince,
ballad of the brown girl,
to die before one wakes must be glad,
Exercises on Themes from Life,
A Biography of Alice Walker,

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