Clifton, Lucille

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
  • Date of entry: Jan-11-1999


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."


Clifton captures eloquently and with great economy the physical reality and symbolic significance of the mastectomy scar. It is a permanent reminder of mortality, yet a feature of the anatomy that one will (must) learn to accept. See also another poem in the "From the Cadaver" sequence, Amazons, annotated in this database.

Primary Source

The Terrible Stories



Place Published

Brockport, N.Y.