Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rest in peace Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton died yesterday. She was 73. Clifton was one of those few poets who saw her work celebrated and lauded during her lifetime. She racked up a lot of awards. While I have never really gotten into her work, I've always appreciated her straightforwardness. She wrote with her feet pretty firmly on earth and seldom lapsed into pretension. There are a lot of poets who would do well to take a page from her book (or books, really, since she has 11 to choose from).

i was leaving my fifty-eighth year
when a thumb of ice
stamped itself hard near my heart

you have your own story
you know about the fears the tears
the scar of disbelief

you know that the saddest lies
are the ones we tell ourselves
you know how dangerous it is

to be born with breasts
you know how dangerous it is
to wear dark skin

i was leaving my fifty-eighth year
when i woke into the winter
of a cold and mortal body

thin icicles hanging off
the one mad nipple weeping

have we not been good children
did we not inherit the earth

but you must know all about this
from your own shivering life

(Lucille Clifton, from the terrible stories, 1996 BOA Editions, Ltd.)

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