i was leaving my fifty-eighth year

when a thumb of ice

stamped itself hard near my heart

you have your own story

you know about the fears the tears

the scar of disbelief

you know that the saddest lies

are the ones we tell ourselves

you know how dangerous it is

to be born with breasts

you know how dangerous it is

to wear dark skin

i was leaving my fifty-eighth year

when i woke into the winter

of a cold and mortal body

thin icicles hanging off

the one mad nipple weeping

have we not been good children

did we not inherit the earth

but you must know all about this

from your own shivering life

Lucille Clifton is a poet, fiction writer, and author of children’s books. Her volume, Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1969–1999, won the 2000 National Book Award for Poetry.

In 2007 she received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which honors a living U.S. poet whose lifetime accomplishments warrant extraordinary recognition. This year, 2010, she was awarded the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America in honor of “distinguished lifetime service to American poetry.” Lucille Clifton passed away just a few weeks ago, on February 13. The poem “1994” is from The Terrible Stories © 1996, published by BOA Editions, Ltd., and is used with permission.


CuddleFish March 8, 2010 @ 7:03 a.m.

Ms. Clifton was to receive the award in April, God Bless her.

RIP, a great poet.


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