Clifton, Lucille

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Wear, Delese
  • Date of entry: Feb-01-2001


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").


This is a poem useful in illustrating the various responses to breast cancer, particularly one that shows the vivid, near visceral spiritual bonds among women who share this dreaded diagnosis. Clifton situates herself culturally and historically throughout the poem alongside warriors--the fierce "daughters of dahomey" and Audre Lorde, whose memoir, The Cancer Journals, rallied women to break the culturally-sanctioned silence and shame of breast cancer.

Primary Source

The Terrible Stories



Place Published

Brockport, N.Y.