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Nikki Giovanni

Selected Works
Nikki Giovanni

The Women Gather

The women gather
because it is not unusual
to seek comfort in our hours of stress
a man must be buried

It is not unusual
that the old bury the young
though it is an abomination

It is not strange
that the unwise and the ungentle
carry the banner of humaneness
though it is a castration of the spirit

It no longer shatters the intellect
that those who make war
call themselves diplomats

we are no longer surprised that the
unfaithful pray loudest every sunday
in every church and sometimes
in rooms facing east
though it is a sin and a shame

So how do we judge a man

most of us love from our need to love
not because we find someone deserving
most of us forgive
because we have trespassed
not because we are magnanimous
most of us comfort
because we need comforting

our ancient rituals demand that
we give what we hope to receive

And how do we judge a man

we learn to greet when meeting
to cry when parting
and to soften our words at times of stress

the women gather with cloth and ointment
their busy hands bowing to laws that decree
willows shall stand swaying but unbroken
against even the determined wind of death

we judge a man by his dreams,
not alone his deeds
we judge a man by his intent,
not alone his shortcomings
we judge a man because it is not unusual
to know him through those who love him

the women gather strangers
to each other because
they have loved a man

it is not unusual to sift through ashes
and find an unburnt picture.

The December of My Springs

In the december of my springs
i long for the days
i shall somehow have
free from children and dinners
and people I have grown stale with

this time i think i'll face love
with my heart instead of my glands

some say we are responsible for
those we love; others know we are
responsible for those who love us

so i sit waiting for a fresh thought
to stir the atmosphere
i'm glad i'm not iron, else
i would be burned by now.

Housecleaning

I always liked housecleaning
even as a child
I dug straightening cabinets
putting new paper on shelves
washing the refrigerator
inside out
and unfortunately this habit
has carried over and I find
I must now remove you
from my life.
Revolutionary Dreams

I used to dream militant dreams
of taking over america to show
these white folks
how it should be done

I used to dream radical dreams
of blowing everyone away
with my perceptive powers
of correct analysis

I even used to think I'd be the one
to stop the riot and
negotiate the peace

then I awoke and dug
that if I dreamed natural
dreams of being a natural
woman doing what a woman
does when she's natural
I would have a revolution.

Luxury

I suppose living in a
materialistic society
luxury to some would be
having more than what you need

living in an electronic age seeing
the whole world by pushing a button
the nth degree might perhaps be
adequately represented by having
someone there to push
the buttons for you

I have thought if only I could
become rich and famous I would
live luxuriously in new york
knowing famous people
eating in expensive restaurants
calling long distance anytime I want

but you held me
one evening and now I know
the ultimate luxury
of your love.

A Very Simple Wish (excerpt)

twice in our lives
we need direction
when we are young and innocent
when we are old and cynical
but since the old refused
to discipline us
we now refuse
to discipline them
which is a contemptuous way
for us to respond to each other

I'm always surprised
that it's easier to stick
a gun in someone's face
or a knife in someone's back
than to touch skin to skin
anyone whom we like

I should imagine
if nature holds true
one day we will lose our hands
since we do no work
nor make any love

if nature holds true
we shall all lose our eyes
since we cannot even now
distinguish the good from the evil

I should imagine
we shall lose our souls
since we have so blatantly
put them up for sale
and glutted the marketplace
thereby depressing the price

I've a mind to build a new world
want to play


from The Women And The Men
Love: Is a Human Condition (excerpt)

An amoeba is lucky it's so small . . .else its narcissism would lead to war . . .
since self-love seems so frequently to lead to self-righteousness . . .

The night loves the stars as they play about the Darkness . . .
the day loves the light caressing the sun . . .We love . . .
those who do . . .because we live in a world requiring light and Darkness . . .
partnership and solitude . . .sameness and difference . . .the familiar and the unknown. . .
We love because it's the only true adventure . . .

I'm glad I'm not an amoeba . . . there must be more to all our lives than ourselves . . .
and our ability to do more of the same . . .

Eagles (a poem for Lisa)

Eagles are a majestic species . . . living in the thin searing air
building nests on precipitous ledges . . .
they are endangered . . . but unafraid . . .

An eagle's nest is an inverted dimple . . . made of ready smiles . . .unbleached
saris . . . available arms . . . and clean soap smells . . .to withstand all . . . elements

Nestled in the chocolate chaos . . . destined to become:
roller skaters
submarine eaters
telephone talkers
people are improperly imprinted ducklings . . .

Eagles perched . . . on those precipitous ledges . . .
insist upon teaching . . .the young . . . to fly . .


from Those Who Ride The Night Winds

Giovanni Biographic Sketch
Back to Main Poetry Page


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