Amazing how you go back to poems you read a long time ago and feel like they could have been written by you, today. This is a poem I have loved since I was a teenager. It never ceases to be true, somehow. All day today, I have avoided the sun, the reality of life, commitments, I even left my phone in another house and holed up in a room, dark, thinking of all the things one must not do for a love which does not exist in a relationship that has never been. Fortunately, poetry is always there, and can do what it does best, reassure you that you are not alone. I love Alice Walker. What a woman.

Did This Happen to Your Mother?
Did Your Sister Throw Up a Lot?

I love a man who is not worth
my love.
Did this happen to your mother?
Did your grandmother wake up
for no good reason
in the middle of the night?

I thought love could be controlled.
It cannot.
Only behaviour can be controlled.
By biting your tongue purple
rather than speak.
Mauling your lips.
Obliterating his number
too thoroughly
to be able to phone.

Love has made me sick.

Did your sister throw up a lot?
Did your cousin complain
of a painful knot
in her back?
Did you aunt always
seem to have something else
troubling her mind?

I thought love would adapt itself
to my needs.
But needs grow too fast;
they come up like weeds.
Through cracks in the conversation.
Through silences in the dark.
Through everything you thought was concrete.

Such needful love has to be chopped out
or forced to wilt back,
poisoned by disapproval
from its own soil.

This is bad news, for the conservationist.

My hand shakes before this killing.
My stomach sits jumpy in my chest. My chest is the Grand Canyon
sprawled empty
over the world.

Whoever he is, he is not worth all this.

And I will never
unclench my teeth long enough
to tell him so.

Alice Walker.


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