Poem: What does it take to be happy? For Stephane Hessel

Stéphane Hessel (center) with Alice Walker, Desmond Tutu, Pierre Galand (far left) Aminata Traore, and  Cynthia McKinney  of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in Cape Town, South Africa 2011.  Photo by Pratibha Parmar.


What does it take to be happy?
for Stéphane Hessel who seemed to know. 


What Does It Take To Be Happy?
© 2013 by Alice Walker 

Even on those days
the news is fully bad.
And all you can do is get out of bed

and failing that
give thanks you have a bed not to get out of.

What does it take to make us smile
when we feel the sword of anger
and hatred
sharp against the backs
of our peaceful necks?

What does it take
to make us stand together
as if we just grew that way?

What does it take to know
the day of peace and justice 
will one day come?

No matter who
is so badly
directing traffic? 

What does it take
to feel a joy so strong
you can almost levitate?

All it takes, really,
is presence,
knowing that you, and those who feel
as you do,

ignoring roadblocks

will arrive.

Will brave the flights, the slights,
the nights of wondering
if and why:

the years of pain sometimes required
to know
where it is most essential
to appear.