you have been the lost color in my eye

I’m so glad I had a chance to see Lucille Clifton read before she passed away two months ago. If you haven’t experienced any of her work yet, I recommend you start with Good Woman, where these three poems can be found. Much of her work is compact and barebones, but it cuts to the core of something so much bigger than a few lines on the page.

“Cutting Greens”

curling them around
i hold their bodies in obscene embrace
thinking of everything but kinship.
collards and kale
strain against each strange other
away from my kissmaking hand and
the iron bedpot.
the pot is black.
the cutting board is black,
my hand,
and just for a minute
the greens roll black under the knife,
and the kitchen twists dark on its spine
and i taste in my natural appetite
the bond of live things everywhere.


call it our craziness even,
call it anything.
it is the life thing in us
that will not let us die.
even in death’s hand
we fold the fingers up
and call them greens
and grow on them,
we hum them and make music.
call it our wildness then,
we are lost from the field
of flowers, we become
a field of flowers.
call it our craziness
our wildness

call it our roots,
it is the light in us
it is the light of us
it is the light, call it
whatever you have to,
call it anything.

“February 13, 1980”

twenty-one years of my life you have been
the lost color in my eye. my secret blindness,
all my seeings turned grey with your going.
mother, i have worn your name like a shield.
it has torn but protected me all these years,
now even your absence comes of age.
i put on a dress called woman for this day
but i am not grown away from you
whatever i say.


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