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The Struggle Staggers Us by Margaret Walker Alexander

The Struggle Staggers Us

by Margaret Walker Alexander

(Originally published in Poetry, 1938)


Our birth and death are easy hours, like sleep

and food and drink. The struggle staggers us

for bread, for pride, for simple dignity.

And this is more than fighting to exist;

more than revolt and war and human odds.

There is a journey from the me to you.

There is a journey from the you to me.

A union of the two strange worlds must be.


Ours is a struggle from a too-warm bed;

too cluttered with a patience full of sleep.

Out of this blackness we must struggle forth;

from want of bread, of pride, of dignity.

Struggle between the morning and the night.

This marks our years; this settles, too, our plight.


My not-so-great photo of Maya Angelou and Margaret Walker Alexander, taken by me in Hattiesburg, MS in the late 1980s.

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