This fall I’m teaching a class on identity and race and creative writers. Last week’s assignment was to choose an author from the wonderful anthology A Good Time for the Truth, someone influential to you personally, and write about why. One of my African students, in a short, beautiful paper, wrote of the importance of reminding her black American-born nephews that “. . . they are not what the media or the world portrays them to be. They are what those who love them see in them.” And what they see in themselves. Which reminds me of this poem by the wondrous Derek Walcott, a poem I don’t often live out myself, but which I love and aspire to anyway.
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome, and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.