Tag Archives: writing

Sorrow Home

Margaret Walker

Walker was born in Birmingham, Alabama on July 7, 1915.
– Her mother was named Marion Dozier Walker and she was a musician
– Her father was named Sigismund C. Walker and he was a Methodist minister
– She was taught philosophy and poetry as a young child
– In 1943 she married Firnist James Alexander
– She had four children
– She passed away on November 30, 1988 in Chicago due to cancer

Sorrow Home                                     Margaret Walker


My roots are deep in southern life; deeper than John Brown


or Nat Turner or Robert Lee. I was sired and weaned

in a tropic world. The palm tree and banana leaf,

mango and coconut, breadfruit and rubber trees know



Warm skies and gulf blue streams are in my blood. I belong


with the smell of fresh pine, with the trail of coon, and

the spring growth of wild onion.


I am no hothouse bulb to be reared in steam-heated flats


with the music of El and subway in my ears, walled in

by steel and wood and brick far from the sky.


I want the cotton fields, tobacco and the cane. I want to


walk along with sacks of seed to drop in fallow ground.

Restless music is in my heart and I am eager to be



O Southland, sorrow home, melody beating in my bone and


blood! How long will the Klan of hate, the hounds and

the chain gangs keep me from my own?



Another poem from Margaret Walker:


For My People


I want to write

I want to write the songs of my people.

I want to hear them singing melodies in the dark.

I want to catch the last floating strains from their sob-torn




I want to frame their dreams into words; their souls into




I want to catch their sunshine laughter in a bowl;

fling dark hands to a darker sky

and fill them full of stars

then crush and mix such lights till they become

a mirrored pool of brilliance in the dawn.




The Book I’m Writing

What’s in the book you are writing? Is it about living a life?  What will you leave out?

The Book I’m Writing                                                               Maggie Rowe

is a book about loss and heartbreak,

also delusion, distaste, quiet villainy, and sabotage.

There’s a strong pulse of hope near the beginning,

the rhythm of which weakens as the narrative develops.

It might have some heroism.

It will have whining,

especially if there is — and there always is —

pain or vomiting involved.

It’s set near the coast:

there’s a running metaphor

involving rogue sea waves

and the crushing of the human spirit.

There are choices made about whom to forgive

and whom to set up in the display case near the front door,

their irritating quirks dusted off

whenever dislike wants justification.

It’s a character-driven work,

the laziness of the protagonist

leading directly to the forfeiture of hope.

In spite of this, birds sing, babies are born, etc.

Divorced Men and Divorced Women: two poems by Debra Bruce

I don’t typically think of poems as being great resources for character profiles and exploration, but these are just that.  Bruce also uses great hard consonant sounds in both poems, you’ll enjoy reading them out loud.  If you’re a writer, but not a poet, consider trying a poem form to illuminate a character or use yourself as subject.  Otherwise, just enjoy the possibilities and lives these two individuals could fit into.

Divorced Men                                                                                    Debra Bruce

She was the best one

on the beach, but what a bitch

she was later. Summer after summer

she tossed, she twisted the sheets

on her side, she burnt the edges

of everything to spite you. The small

kitchen sweated grease, babies stuck

to her hip until they finally slipped

away from her and dropped, one

by one, into your arms in the backyard.

Like other fathers you knew, you

played ball with your boys

on a homemade diamond. You played

until your trick knee gave, until she

called through the screen for you

to bring them in. But it was just dusk,

you slapped your catcher’s mitt

and shouted. You could still see the perfect

arc of your son’s pitch, you thought

you could see everything.

Divorced Women                                                                              Debra Bruce

The bedroom mirrors reflect

from all angles that you’ve

trimmed down since him to the slim

size you used to be. Turning again,

you turn to yourself. The hip-hugging

fit fits, and dusky blue is the right

shadow for tonight.

Cosmetic kit, car keys, and the quarter moon

like a key-ring trinket. Your whole life

you’ve known only one man. Now

you will know how all men

are one, when their muscles melt

in motion, hips curve into waves.

But you won’t drown. Just dry

your thighs and drive home, alone,

alive, with time for the first time

to notice how the September crepe myrtle

strips off its bark. Its petals

are so pink, too pink, and a late

summer storm has torn them up

and smeared them on the lawn

of your apartment complex.

Writing in the Afterlife

For some the humor of the poem is inherent, for other’s the idea is a little too depressing.  Irony is well used: would writers love or hate the compulsory writing demanded of newbies to the afterlife?  In my classes, I enjoyed asking and hearing about the varied instructions per “where we’ll go in the end” that we’d received in our varying upbringings.

Writing in the Afterlife                                                                                 Billy Collins

I imagined the atmosphere would be clear,

shot with pristine light,

not this sulphurous haze,

the air ionized as before a thunderstorm.


Many have pictured a river here,

but no one mentioned all the boats,

their benches crowded with naked passengers,

each bent over a writing tablet.


I knew I would not always be a child

with a model train and a model tunnel,

and I knew I would not live forever,

jumping all day through the hoop of myself.


I had heard about the journey to the other side

and the clink of the final coin

in the leather purse of the man holding the oar,

but how could anyone have guessed


that as soon as we arrived

we would be asked to describe this place

and to include as much detail as possible—

not just the water, he insists,


rather the oily, fathomless, rat-happy water,

not simply the shackles, but the rusty,

iron, ankle-shredding shackles—

and that our next assignment would be


to jot down, off the tops of our heads,

our thoughts and feelings about being dead,

not really an assignment,

the man rotating the oar keeps telling us—


think of it more as an exercise, he groans,

think of writing as a process,

a never-ending, infernal process,

and now the boats have become jammed together,


bow against stern, stern locked to bow,

and not a thing is moving, only our diligent pens