Poetry Monday–two from Lucille

imagesI know it’s Tuesday again, but I was in an anti-poetry mood yesterday, wandering through my friends’ extensive library and not liking anything I read. We poets are a pretentious bunch! Then I thought about Lucille Clifton. I was lucky to have worked with her two different years at Squaw Valley. Although I knew her only slightly, she was one of those people who make a big impression. I watched her deftly improve poems, encourage without over praising, and say things like, “the house of poetry has many rooms.” Her own poems are usually short, accessible, and powerful like these samples. They are not all about being a woman, or black, but they all have wit and a big heart. Lucille didn’t capitalize much, and was sparing in punctuation. When asked about it by one of the students she said that was just how it came to her:

to my last period

well, girl, goodbye,
after thirty-eight years.
thirty-eight years and you
never arrived
splendid in your red dress
without trouble for me
somewhere, somehow.

now it is done,
and i feel just like the
grandmothers who,
after the hussy has gone,
sit holding her photograph
and sighing, wasn’t she
beautiful? wasn’t she beautiful?

*                                          *                                          *

wishes for sons

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.

lucille clifton

When I heard about her daughter dying, I wrote this. Lucille always said she could feel her mother watching over her. If Lucille’s around somewhere, I hope she likes this post and this poem:

life sentence

xx   for lucille clifton

the fact
that we die
makes the jam
on my toast
taste so sweet
i can hardly bear
to take the next bite
but i do
and i do
and i do
what’s left
and eating
the grain
the fruit

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