Lucille Clifton

May 9, 2007

lucille-clifton.jpg
(1936-)

Born Thelma Lucille Sayles
Married Fred Clifton
Has written frankly about being an incest survivor
Raised six children
Has two ancestors of great significance to her: great-great-grandmother Caroline, a west-central African girl kidnapped by slave traders and great-grandmother Lucille, the first woman legally hanged in “Virginia for murdering the white father of her only son
Celebrates African American culture, especially black womanhood
Protests the injustices inflicted by the larger culture
Intensely personal and yet collectivist: bridges the gap between “confessional poetry” and “identity poetry”

Quotations

i am accused of tending to the past/ as if i made it,/ as if i sculpted it/ with my own hands. i did not./ this past was waiting for me/ when i came,/ a monstrous unnamed baby,/ and i with my mother’s itch/ took it to breast/ and named it/ History./ she is more human now,/ learning language everyday,/ remembering faces, names and dates./ when she is strong enough to travel/ on her own, beware, she will.

-[i am accused of tending to the past] (in whole)

among the rocks/ at walnut grove/ your silence drumming/ in my bones,/ tell me your names.
nobody mentioned slaves/ and yet the curious tools/ shine with your fingerprints./ nobody mentioned slaves/ but somebody did this work/ who had no guide, no stone,/ who moulders under rock.
tell me your names,/ tell me your bashful names/ and i will testify.
the inventory lists ten slaves/ but only men were recognized.
among the rocks/ at walnut grove/ some of these honored dead/ were dark/ some of these dark/ were slaves/ some of these slaves/ were women/ some of them did this/ honored work./ tell me your names/ foremothers, brothers,/ tell me your dishonored names./ here lies/ here lies/ here lies/ here lies/ hear

-at the cemetery, walnut grove plantation, south carolina, 1989 (in whole)

you   uterus/ you have been patient/ as a sock/ while i have slippered into you/ my dead and living children/ now/ they want to cut you out/ stocking i will not need/ where i am going/ where am i going/ old girl/ without you/ uterus/ my bloody print/ my estrogen kitchen/ my black bag of desire/ where can i go/ barefoot/ without you/ where can you go/ without me

-poem to my uterus (in whole)

well girl, goodbye,/ after thrity-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?

-to my last period (in whole)

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One Response to “Lucille Clifton”

  1. Wanda Says:

    I enjoyed the poem and it touched my soul


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