A Poet's Double Life

For poets working outside the literary world.

June 2020: Lucille Speaks

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The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010

The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010

My last post was on the day before Memorial Day–the day before the world witnessed George Floyd’s murderbefore their eyes, the day before Christian Cooper posted his video of a white women pretending to be frightened as she called the police to say that a Black man was threatening her when he simply wanted to watch birds in peace, six days after the arrest of the man who shot the video of Ahmaud Arberybeing chased and killed by white men because he was #joggingwhileblack, and 12 days after Breonna Taylor was killed while in her bed whenthe police entered without warning and fired multiple shots into her apartment.

I had been posting poems I read before lunch and before dinner on Facebook and Instagram following the Italian poet’s Franco Arminio’s first of 10 recommended domestic decalogues—ways to spend our time during lockdown. The first poem I posted (3/21), Emily Dickinson’s “My life closed twice before its close“ is part of the anthology The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing edited by Kevin Young. I bought this book on March 7th—the last time I got my nails done before the last social gathering I attended before stay-at-home became a thing. Little did I know how much I was going to need this book three weeks later.

I posted my first Lucille Clifton poem on April 21st—“blessing the boats”—a poem featured in the Academy of American Poets’ selection of “Shelter in Poems.” Their selection of Clifton’s work prompted me to pull out my copy of The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010, a 700+ page volume edited by Kevin Young and Michael S. Glaser. Her poems provided comfort during that month of isolation, and after recent events that reminded us that racism is alive and well in America, I found that her poems spoke all of the words we needed to hear and that anyone needed to say. So for the last 2+ months, I’ve let Mama Lucille speak.

BlessingtheBoats

blessing the boats by Lucille Clifton

Yesterday would have been Lucille Clifton’s 84th birthday. I had the honor of meeting her the year before she died at the Furious Flower Poetry Center. I posted the two poems she wrote about turning 70. I think it is only fitting to end this mark this mile of my stay-at-home marathon with her poem, The Last Day (p. 365):

we will find ourselves surrounded
by our kind          all of them now
wearing the eyes they had
only imagined possible
and they will reproach us
with those eyes
in a language more actual
than speech
asking why we allowed this
to happen          asking why
for the love of God
we did this to ourselves
and we will answer
in our feeble voices          because
because          because

 

~from The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 (BOA Editions Ltd, 2012) edited by Kevin Young and Michael S. Glaser.

 

Author: poetsdoublelife

Poet and strategy/data guru living in Massachusetts.

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