Despite the charms or gravity: five poems by Nikki Giovanni

it’s not the crutches we decry
it’s the need to move forward
though we haven’t the strength

women aren’t allowed to need
so they develop rituals
since we all know working hands idle

the devil
women aren’t supposed to be strong
so they develop social smiles
and secret drinking problems
and female lovers whom they never touch
except in dreams

men are supposed to be strong
so they have heart attacks
and develop other women
who don’t know their weaknesses
and hide their fears
behind male lovers
whom they religiously touch
each saturday morning on the basketball court
it’s considered a sign of health doncha know
that they take such good care
of their bodies

i’m trying to say something about the human condition
maybe i should try again

if you broke an arm or leg
a crutch would be a sign of courage
people would sign your cast
and you could bravely explain
no it doesn’t hurt—it just itches
but if you develop an itch
there are no salves to cover the area
in need of attention
and for whatever guilt may mean
we would feel guilty for trying
to assuage the discomfort
and even worse for needing the aid

i really want to say something about all of us
am i shouting                 i want you to hear me

emotional falls always are
the worst
and there are no crutches
to swing back on


I love you
because the Earth turns around the sun
because the North wind blows north
because the Pope is Catholic
and most Rabbis Jewish
because winters flow into springs
and the air clears after a storm
because only my love for you
despite the charms or gravity
keeps me from falling off this Earth
into another dimension

I love you
because it is the natural order of things

I love you
like the habit I picked up in college
of sleeping through lectures
or saying I’m sorry
when I get stopped for speeding
because I drink a glass of water
in the morning
and chain-smoke cigarettes
all through the day
because I take my coffee Black
and my milk with chocolate
because you keep my feet warm
though my life a mess
I love you
because I don’t want it
any other way

I am helpless
in my love for you

It makes me so happy
to hear you call my name
I am amazed you can resist
locking me in an echo chamber
where your voice reverberates
through the four walls
sending me into spasmatic ecstasy
I love you
because it’s been so good
for so long
that if I didn’t love you
I’d have to be born again
and that is not a theological statement
I am pitiful in my love for you

The Dells tell me Love
is so simple
the thought though of you
sends indescribably delicious multitudinous
thrills throughout and through-in my body
I love you
because no two snow flakes are alike
and it is possible
if you stand tippy-toe
to walk between the raindrops
I love you
because I am afraid of the dark
and can’t sleep in the light
because I rub my eyes
when I wake up in the morning
and find you there
because you with all your magic powers were
determined that
I should love you
because there was nothing for you but that
I would love you

I love you
because you made me
want to love you
more than I love my privacy
my freedom my commitments
and responsibilities
I love you ‘cause I changed my life
to love you
because you saw me one Friday
afternoon and decided that I would
love you
I love you I love you I love you


i haven’t written a poem in so long
i may have forgotten how
unless writing a poem
is like riding a bike
or swimming upstream
or loving you
it may be a habit that once acquired
is never lost

but you say i’m foolish
of course you love me
but being loved of course
is not the same as being loved because
or being loved despite
or being loved

if you love me why
do i feel so lonely
and why do i always wake up alone
and why am i practicing
not having you to love
i never loved you that way

if being loved by you is accepting always

getting the worst
taking the least
hearing the excuse

and never being called when you say you will
then it’s a habit
like smoking cigarettes
or brushing my teeth when i awake
something i could just as well do

most habits occur
because of laziness
we overdrink
because our friends do
we overeat
because our parents think
we need more flesh
on the bones
and perhaps my worst habit
is overloving
and like most who live
to excess
i will be broken
in two
by my unwillingness
to control my feelings

but i sit writing
a poem
about my habits
which while it’s not
a great poem
is mine
and some habits
like smiling at children
or giving a seat to an old person
should stay
if for no other reason
than their civilizing

which is the ultimate
i need
to acquire

And Sometimes I Sit

and sometimes i sit
down at my typewriter
and i think
not of someone
cause there isn’t anyone
to think
about and i wonder
is it worth it


she didn’t like to think in abstracts
sadness happiness taking giving all abstracts
she much preferred waxing the furniture
cleaning the shelves putting the plates away
something concrete to put her hands on
a job well done in a specific time span

her eyes were two bright shiny six guns
already cocked
prepared to go off at a moment’s indiscretion
had she been a vietnam soldier or a mercenary
for Ian Smith all the children and dogs and goodly
portions of grand old trees would have been demolished

she had lived both long and completely enough
not to be chained to truth
she was not pretty
she had no objections to the lies
lies were better than the silence that abounded
nice comfortable lies like I need you
or Gosh you look pretty this morning
the lies that make the lie of life real
or lies that make real life livable

she lived on the edge of an emotional abyss
or perhaps she lived in the well of a void
there were always things she wanted
like arms to hold her
eyes that understood
a friend to relax with
someone to touch
always someone to touch

Despite the charms or gravity: five poems by Nikki Giovanni

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