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Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Valentine For Lucille Clifton

I have the perfect Valentine for you-the poetry of Lucille Clifton. She died yesterday and I feel so honored and blessed to have met her and to have heard her say her own words. She is-I purposely use the present tense because she lives on through her poetry- a fierce woman who celebrates the complex journey of being a woman. Here are a few of my favorite poems by her and here is a link to more of her work.

Above is a painting by Kadir Nelson, who is one of the best book illustrators. ( Do check him out.) This painting is called Be Giving and that’s what Ms. Clifton’s poetry does for young girls like me. It gives us a sense of ourselves, of what’s to come and a rope to hold on to when we might loose our footing.

Lucille Clifton invites us to love ourselves.
Happy Valentine’s Day.

won't you celebrate with me
by Lucille Clifton

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

wishes for sons
by Lucille Clifton

i wish them cramps.
i wish them a strange town
and the last tampon.
i wish them no 7-11.

i wish them one week early
and wearing a white skirt.
i wish them one week late.

later i wish them hot flashes
and clots like you
wouldn't believe. let the
flashes come when they
meet someone special.
let the clots come
when they want to.

let them think they have accepted
arrogance in the universe,
then bring them to gynecologists
not unlike themselves.

Telling Our Stories

By Lucille Clifton

The fox came every evening

to my door asking for nothing.

my fear trapped me inside,

hoping to dismiss her but

she sat till morning, waiting.

At dawn we would, each of us,

rise from our haunches,

look through the glass

then walk away.

Did she gather her village around

her and sing of the hairless moon face,

the trembling snout,

the ignorant eyes?

Child, i tell you now it was not

the animal blood i was hiding from,

it was the poet in her,

the poet and the terrible stories

she could tell.

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