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Trees Reflection in the Water

Reflections

What does it mean to be human?

How do we nourish ourselves and find meaning, imperfect and messy as our lives may be?

How do we find each other - authentically, vulnerably, courageously - amidst it all?

 

Here I share reflections on topics we too rarely discuss: grief, death, shame, impermanence, motherhood, belonging, and living fully, with it all.

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  • Writer's pictureTaryn Gammon

Poetry Rx: I Will Keep Broken Things

"I Will Keep Broken Things" is a gift from the incomparable Alice Walker, renowned novelist, poet, human rights activist, and self-described "womanist," known for literary work that illuminates the specific experiences of Black women in America and explores the dynamic tension between human capacities for love, brutality, divisiveness, and connection.


Here, Walker composes an ode to the broken - from the material to the existential - with a dedication, gratitude, and reverence that is not often bestowed upon them. In content, language, and structure, it reads as an altar to brokenness: a place where the broken shards, tattered remains, painful histories, and losses and griefs of our lives can be seen and honored; held, even, as holy.



How distinct her approach is from our tendencies to quickly discard, fix, or try to transform that which is broken; strategies that may work well for shattered picture frames, but become more complicated with shattered hearts. And yet even for those shattered frames, she suggests, there is value in allowing the broken to be broken. For each broken thing holds a story, a history, an impact, perhaps even a beauty that may not be fully realized unless we are willing to stay - uncomfortable as it may be - with the reality of that brokenness. 

 

The strength, clarity, and steadfastness of the voice of this poem has me asking: is there a way in which this willingness to “keep broken things” is itself transformative? Not, perhaps, to the broken entity itself, but to our own increasing capacities to lovingly, honestly, courageously, bear the truth. Walker’s poem invites me to consider how making space for the broken may be a way into wholeness – into a fuller, more heartfelt understanding of the complexity of our own and others’ lives, and of the realities in which we find ourselves.


May you, dear reader, pilgrim of sorrow, hold any brokenness you encounter this week with love, honoring its truth and importance to the whole.



I will keep

broken things:

The big clay

pot

with raised

iguanas

chasing

their

tails;

two

of their

wise

heads

sheared

off;


I will keep

broken

things:

The old

slave

market

basket

brought

to my

door

by Mississippi

a jagged

hole

gouged

in its sturdy

dark

oak

side.


I will keep

broken things:

The memory

of

those

long

delicious

night

swims

with

you;


I will keep

broken

things:

In my house

there

remains

an

honored

shelf

on which

I will

keep

broken

things.


Their beauty

is

they

need

not

ever

be ‘fixed.’


I will keep

your

wild

free

laughter

though

it is now

missing

its

reassuring

and

graceful

hinge.


I will keep

broken

things:


Thank you

so much!


I will keep

Broken

Things.


I will keep

you:


pilgrim

of

sorrow.


I will keep

myself.


~Alice Walker



For a rare please, listen to Alice Walker read her poem, “I Will Keep Broken Things,” here (3 min watch).


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