A powerful piece for all of us daughters out there from the dazzling and brilliant Lucille Clifton (1936-2010).
woman who shines at the head
of my grandmother’s bed,
brilliant woman, i like to think
you whispered into her ear
instructions. i like to think
you are the oddness in us,
you are the arrow
that pierced our plain skin
and made us fancy women;
my wild witch gran, my magic mama,
and even these gaudy girls.
i like to think you gave us
extraordinary power and to
protect us, you became the name
we were cautioned to forget.
it is enough,
you must have murmured,
to remember that i was
and that you are. woman, i am
lucille, which stands for light,
daughter of thelma, daughter
of georgia, daughter of
Devastating want is lit aflame in the lyrical verse of Roger Reeves (1980-).
“Romanticism (the Blue Keats)”
I want a terrace of bamboo. A stuttering harp.
A garden fitted with a grotto and gimp hermit.
I want to lose my last name in the crickets
Coupling beneath my feet. I want the body’s burden,
Four more angels to drag through the streets
Of a city that finds the monkey sacred, the fool careful,
The monk dumb. I want a painting of persimmons
And a persimmon. I want the violence of my love
To leave my sleep and my lover alone. I am dedicated
To the same baffled heart I have always carried.
The diamonds and mud of my mouth. The midsummer
Lurching toward the late-summer heat that will kill
The sage and tomato plants tanning on the veranda.
I want the water and the leg my uncle lost coming from the well.
If one body will hide another and call this hiding love,
I want to always torture myself with another’s wet borders.
An ankle clicking against an ankle. The wrists fettered.
There was something I knew before this. Before my hands
Tore at the ropes, snapped cedar poles and ripped the silk
Of any tent I lay in. I want to know how the savage
Wind loves the house it destroys. I want to know before
I am both house and savage wind, before all of the tents
In the city become tattered rags snagged in the hair
Of our children and the redheaded trees. I am careful
To want nothing that I cannot lose and be sad in the losing.
A terrace made of rotting bamboo. A harp lost in its singing.
My last name and the tomatoes falling from the vine. Woman,
I want this plum heart. And the dying that makes us possible.
from King Me
Welcome to my eighth round of daily postings for National Poetry Month. This past year, when so much of this fractured world filled me with bewilderment and sorrow and anger, I found myself turning to poetry more than ever before. It was through poems that I encountered some of the most beautiful expressions of the human experience we share, and through poems that I grasped so palpably all the forces that push and break us apart.
And it was through poems that I learned and re-learned to worship the strangers around me. Let us begin this month with the phenomenal writer and activist June Jordan (1936-2002), whose mountain of work I urge you to explore.
For the next 30 days, I hope the lines of these poets will reach you, wherever you are, whoever you are. Are you ready? Join me.
they are things that I do
in the dark
reaching for you
whoever you are
are you ready?
they are stones in the water
These skeletal lines
they are desperate arms for my longing and love.
I am a stranger
learning to worship the strangers
whoever you are
whoever I may become.