Monday, June 6, 2011


A Facebook friend posted the following: "It's not about what you are called...It's about what you answer to". I immediately recognized it as paraphrasing a quote from Lucille Clifton: "What they call you is one thing; what you answer to is something else."

I first heard that quote of Lucille Clifton in a speech given by Connie Schultz. After the speech I asked Connie to use that quote to autograph her book " . . . and His Lovely Wife", which was her memoir of the 2006 U.S. Senate campaign to elect her husband Sherrod Brown.

That was the impetus for my research about the poet, fiction author, autobiographer and educator Lucille Clifton and I became a devotee.

This is a favorite poem:


a woman precedes me up the long rope.
her dangling braids the color of rain.
maybe i should have had braids.
maybe i should have kept the body i started,
slim and possible as a boy's bone.
maybe i should have wanted less.
maybe i should have ignored the bowl in me
burning to be filled.
maybe i should have wanted less.
the woman passes the notch in the rope
marked Sixty. I rise toward it, struggling,
hand over hungry hand.

Another poem by Lucille Clifton:

i am accused of tending to the past

i am accused of tending to the past
as if i made it,
as if i sculpted it
with my own hands. i did not.
this past was waiting for me
when i came,
a monstrous unnamed baby,
and i with my mother's itch
took it to breast
and named it
she is more human now,
learning languages everyday,
remembering faces, names and dates.
when she is strong enough to travel
on her own, beware, she will.

1 comment:

Mona Lisa said...

Thanks! I am sorry I had never heard of Lucille before but I went to the site and have read a great many of her poems.