Some Thoughts on “I Will Keep Broken Things” by Alice Walker

Some Thoughts on “I Will Keep Broken Things” by Alice Walker

by: Sr. Colleen Winston  

The title of this poem always draws me into it. Like my father and the poet, I am reluctant to dispose of broken things. For dad and I, there was always a hope that it could be useful again, either by being fixed or by being re-purposed.

For the poet, it’s something else. One line says: “Their beauty is they need not ever be fixed.” For her, brokenness applies not just an old slave market basket but to memories like her long night swims with a dear friend or their “wild, free laughter”. She concludes with gratitude and these words: “I will keep broken things: I will keep you; pilgrim of sorrow. I will keep myself.”

Walker’s profound insights are much richer than these brief thoughts can convey, but every time I read why she keeps broken things, I am moved.**

Love goes beyond the here and now. Damaged love is still a treasure to be cherished.  Often, we may want it to be restored like a precious antique, and that restoration can produce rich satisfaction and joy. However not all past loves can be restored, but the memories they leave behind may themselves be a treasure.

But what can be treasured about a broken relationship, I ask myself. The first answer that comes to mind is that any kind of love is a gift, At one time it was whole, and any love is a gift to a world that starves for it. After all, the more we have known of love, the more healing has come among us; even a fragment of love is an echo of God’s gracious care for each of us.


As I was doing a final draft of this blog, it happened to be the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, and at Mass the image of brokenness was prominent. It reminded me that brokenness is at the heart of Christianity. Every time we look at a crucifix, we see brokenness. Going to Communion plunges us into sacramental brokenness. If we truly listen to Christ’s gospel taught by the apostles and the church when it preaches the beatitudes, it tells us that the broken are blessed. (“Blest are the poor, … the sorrowing…”)

While Alice Walker suggests we may want to hold on to broken things, Christ tells us to cherish the broken, whether it is a friend, a stranger, or even ourselves. The 2nd great commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself”, tells us to love ourselves, and each other, no matter how broken. For people of faith, this can be a new pathway for considering how deeply the gospel has penetrate our daily lives.

** To read this poem in tis fullness, go to “Poetry of Presence: an anthology of mindfulness poems,” ed. Phyllis Cole-Dai and Ruby R. Wilson,  © 2017. . Reprinted there from Hard Times Require Furious Dancing, © 2010, Alice Walker, Grayson Books, W Hartford, CT.