Clifton, Lucille

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
  • Date of entry: Nov-29-2000
  • Last revised: Jan-09-2010


The speaker appears to be in need of an organ transplant (see dialysis, annotated in this database). Her son is the likely donor but there is an incredible irony in this: 30 years earlier she had tried to abort him, brutally ("the hangers I shoved inside"), before abortion was legal. Now, as she is told that her body might reject his, she remembers how she had previously rejected his body, and how he had refused to be rejected ("refusing my refusal").


Life is full of ironies, chance events, unpredictability, adjustments. Situations that were once intolerable become tolerable--perhaps even welcome--because there is no choice, time passes, people and circumstances change. The poem also reminds us of how the relationships between children and parents are altered as the dependencies reverse with time.


The collection in which this poem appears (Blessing the Boats) won the National Book Award.

Primary Source

Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000



Place Published

Rochester, N.Y.