Van Gogh, Vincent. “Oleanders,” oil on canvas, 1888. Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

If my sorrow were deeper
I’d be, along with you, under
the ocean’s floor;
but today I learn that the oil
that pools beneath the ocean floor
is essence
residue
remains
of all our
relations
all
our ancestors who have died and turned to oil
without our witness
eons ago.
We’ve always belonged to them.
Speaking for you, hanging, weeping, over the water’s edge
as well as for myself.
It is our grief
heavy, relentless,
trudging
us, however resistant,
to the decaying and rotten
bottom of things:
our grief bringing
us home.

 

Copyright ©2013 by Alice Walker. This poem originally appeared in The World Will Follow Joy: Turning Madness into Flowers (New Poems) published by The New Press. Reprinted here with permission.

 

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