5 Nature Poems by Women of Color

We are living in a world-altering moment in history. Now is the time for art and connection. Now is the time to remember and strengthen our roots in nature and our forests. Taking each day as it comes, I’ve drawn strength from the poetry of these five women of color. With diverse cultural backgrounds, including Creole, Mojave, and Chinese, these artists’ powerful words and depictions of nature resonate deeply with me, so I wanted to share them with you.

Whether it’s a reminder that flowers and our souls grow wild and free or mythologizing the loss of a river, these poems tap into both unique and universal experiences of nature that can help ground us and lay bare all the fierce beauty in our world.


by Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson

I had no thought of violets of late,
The wild, shy kind that spring beneath your feet
In wistful April days, when lovers mate
And wander through the fields in raptures sweet.
The thought of violets meant florists’ shops,
And bows and pins, and perfumed papers fine;
And garish lights, and mincing little fops
And cabarets and songs, and deadening wine.
So far from sweet real things my thoughts had strayed,
I had forgot wide fields, and clear brown streams;
The perfect loveliness that God has made,—
Wild violets shy and Heaven-mounting dreams.
And now—unwittingly, you’ve made me dream
Of violets, and my soul’s forgotten gleam.

On the Pulse of Morning

by Maya Angelou

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon,
The dinosaur, who left dried tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow,
I will give you no hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness
Have lain too long
Facedown in ignorance,
Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.

The Rock cries out to us today,
You may stand upon me,
But do not hide your face.

(Excerpt. For the full poem, watch the video below of Maya Angelou performing “On the Pulse of Morning” at the 1992 presidential inauguration of Bill Clinton.)

How the Milky Way was Made

by Natalie Diaz

My river was once unseparated. Was Colorado. Red-
fast flood. Able to take

       anything it could wet—in a wild rush—

                                 all the way to Mexico.

Now it is shattered by fifteen dams
over one-thousand four-hundred and fifty miles,

pipes and pumps filling
swimming pools and sprinklers

      in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

To save our fish, we lifted them from our skeletoned river beds,
loosed them in our heavens, set them aster —

      ‘Achii ‘ahan, Mojave salmon,

                                Colorado pikeminnow—

Up there they glide, gilled with stars.
You see them now—

      god-large, gold-green sides,

                                moon-white belly and breast—

making their great speeded way across the darkest hours,
rippling the sapphired sky-water into a galaxy road.

The blurred wake they drag as they make their path
through the night sky is called

      ‘Achii ‘ahan nyuunye—

                                our words for Milky Way.

Coyote too is up there, crouched in the moon,
after his failed attempt to leap it, fishing net wet

      and empty, slung over his back—

                                a prisoner blue and dreaming

of unzipping the salmon’s silked skins with his teeth.
O, the weakness of any mouth

      as it gives itself away to the universe

                                of a sweet-milk body.

Just as my own mouth is dreamed to thirst
the long desire-ways, the hundred-thousand light year roads

      of your throat and thighs.

Nature Aria

by Yi Lei
translated by Tracy K. Smith and Changtai Bi

Autumn wind chases in
From all directions
And a thousand chaste leaves
Give way.

Scatter in me the seeds
Of a thousand saplings.
Let grow a grassy heaven.
On my brow: a sun.
This bliss is yours, Living
World, and alone it endures.
Music at midnight.
Young wine.
Lovers hand in hand
By daylight, moonlight.
Living World, hold me
In your mouth,

Slip on your frivolous shoes
And dance with me. My soul
Is the wild vine
Who alone has grasped it,
Who has seen through the awful plot,
Who will arrive in time to vanquish
The river already heavy with blossoms,
The moon spilling light onto packs
Of men. What is sadder than witless
Wolves, wind without borders,
Nationless birds, small gifts
Laden with love’s intentions?

Fistfuls of rain fall hard, fill
My heart with mud. An old wind
May still come chasing in.
Resurrection fire. And me here
Laughing like a cloud in trousers,
Entreating the earth to bury me.

Summer Haibun

by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

To everything, there is a season of parrots. Instead of feathers, we searched the sky for meteors on our last night. Salamanders use the stars to find their way home. Who knew they could see that far, fix the tiny beads of their eyes on distant arrangements of lights so as to return to wet and wild nests? Our heads tilt up and up and we are careful to never look at each other. You were born on a day of peaches splitting from so much rain and the slick smell of fresh tar and asphalt pushed over a cracked parking lot. You were strong enough—even as a baby—to clutch a fistful of thistle and the sun himself was proud to light up your teeth when they first swelled and pushed up from your gums. And this is how I will always remember you when we are covered up again: by the pale mica flecks on your shoulders. Some thrown there from your own smile. Some from my own teeth. There are not enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night. I want to spread those little meteors on a hunk of still-warm bread this winter. Any trace left on the knife will make a kitchen sink like that evening air

the cool night before
star showers: so sticky so
warm so full of light

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7 Responses to “5 Nature Poems by Women of Color”

  1. Marilyn Denise Jackson

    I would like to write some of my poems on your site about Black women!

  2. Rachel Ann Bovier

    “Forever Yours”

    Yes we’ve had our differences
    And yes we’ve shed the tear
    But let me say to you
    Never once did I not care

    For you were my reason for being
    Yes you were the one for me
    My life,my world,my all,
    And those you will always be

    And I tell you here as I stand
    You were the nicest person I knew
    Kind,considerate, and loving,
    And all of them through and through

    Forever yours I will be
    Forever yours it is true
    And no one could ever love you
    As much as I loved you

    Rachel Ann Bovier

  3. Rachel Ann Bovier

    Poem In Titles Of
    ((( “Fruits & Vegetables” )))

    And you were the “apple”
    Of my eye
    But you were in love
    With another guy

    But still to me
    You were a “peach” of a girl
    So sweet and kind
    And a genuine pearl

    But you failed to believe
    My love was true
    And that I was totally
    “bananas” for you

    So you got fed up
    And told me to “beet” it
    But the message you gave
    I refused to believe it

    The same with my “pears”
    Who were laughing at me
    About how I was blind
    And too dumb to see

    That pursuing you
    Was all in vain
    Like a “mushroom” head
    Without a brain

    But still I was thinking
    You’d “turnip” someday
    When you’d come to realize
    Along the way

    That my “celery” was
    A million a year
    But for the sake of money
    You did not care

    And so in closing
    I have this to say-oh
    You have broken the heart
    Of this old “potato”

    Rachel Ann Bovier

  4. Rachel Ann Bovier

    “She’s All The Colors”

    She’s Yellow” like the sun
    Because she shines on every one

    She’s “Pink” just like the blossom
    Because she’s so very awesome

    She’s “Gold” just like the treasure
    Because in life she’ll always measure

    She’s “White” just like the snow
    Because she’s wonderful to know

    And she’s “Green” just like the trees
    Because the beauty in life she sees

    Rachel Ann Bovier

  5. Thank you for this work. Would love to stay connected with what you’re doing. We had a number of women from Antioch who did coops on our farm in Western Pennsylvania. Feel your pain on the loss of our forests.

  6. These are beautiful, such an inspiring way to share about our earth and PoC women’s rights

  7. John Beal

    Thanks for sharing these Amanda! so many great lines, my favorite at the moment
    laughing like a cloud in trousers jtb


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