Showing 11 - 18 of 18 annotations associated with Clifton, Lucille
Summary:The narrative voice of this short poem familiarizes her period, giving it life affectionately as "girl," but a girl who never appeared without trouble, "splendid in your red dress." Yet even with the trouble (pain? unexpected appearances?), she now thinks differently as the "girl" begins to leave. The voice calls forth images of huddled grandmothers who, after the "hussy has gone," sit holding her picture, sighing, "wasn't she beautiful?" The poem expresses the ambivalence many women feel toward menstruation--the lived experience of pain, bloating, and inconvenience, contrasted with its earthy, rich, symbolic nature.
Summary:In this simple 21 line poem, the writer speaks to her uterus, which has served her well throughout life, "patient / as a sock." Now, they want to cut it out. Where, the writer asks, where can I go without you? And "where can you go / without me"?
A 23-line poem written during the moments of waiting for the results and upon hearing the results ("i rose / and ran to the telephone / to hear / cancer early detection no / mastectomy not yet"), "Amazons" invokes images of the narrator's real and mythological ancestors and sisters ("women / warriors all / each cupping one hand around / her remaining breast") as she waits, and when she receives the news ("my sisters swooped in a circle dance / audre was with them").
The narrator is addressing her image in the mirror. "you . . . got a geography / of your own." The speaker takes pride in that body because it is not easily fathomed: "somebody need directions / to move around you." That body makes itself known. The concluding lines tell the "mister" who has presumed to handle that body that he "got his hands on / some / damn / body!"
In 1994, Lucille Clifton was diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer. This short (12 line) poem, part of the sequence, "From the Cadaver" in this collection, describes an aspect of that experience. The mastectomy scar is an integral part of the narrator’s body, a physical presence that the poet addresses as if it were a person: "we will learn / to live together." At the same time, the scar marks a cataclysmic event in the poet’s life; it is the "edge of before and after." Finally, the scar speaks. " . . . i will not fall off."
Summary:The poet addresses Jerina, a friend and confidant who knows the narrator’s story of childhood sexual abuse at the hands--"the silent fingers in the dark"--of her own father. The poet states matter-of-factly that she long ago realized there could be no safety anywhere if there was none at home. As an adult she took refuge in her work and neglected her personal life, but now "the girl [of whom she had been ashamed] is rising in me" and she intends to "have what she / has earned, / sweet sighs, safe houses, / hands she can trust."
Summary:A woman who has already lived out more than half of her life lies next to her man, listening to the night sounds of their own breathing, and has intimations of mortality. She thinks of her own mother, who was already dead at this age, and feels she must conserve her very breath. The sexual energy and "soft expensive murmurings" she spends on her lover may cost her--and yet he is oblivious, sleeping "as if there could be even now / no question of tomorrow."
Summary:A daughter is haunted by recollections of strife between her parents, now dead. She sides with her mother in the weekly disputes over money--the overt manifestations of a difficult marital relationship and a life lived on the edge of poverty. But in the end, she recognizes that her father "was the son of a needy father" and that her parents "were each other's bad bargain, not mine."