mulberry fields

By Lucille Clifton 1936–2010 Lucille Clifton
they thought the field was wasting
and so they gathered the marker rocks and stones and
piled them into a barn    they say that the rocks were shaped
some of them scratched with triangles and other forms    they
must have been trying to invent some new language they say
the rocks went to build that wall there guarding the manor and
some few were used for the state house
crops refused to grow
i say the stones marked an old tongue and it was called eternity
and pointed toward the river    i say that after that collection
no pillow in the big house dreamed    i say that somewhere under
here moulders one called alice whose great grandson is old now
too and refuses to talk about slavery    i say that at the
masters table only one plate is set for supper    i say no seed
can flourish on this ground once planted then forsaken    wild
berries warm a field of bones
bloom how you must i say

Lucille Clifton, “mulberry fields” from Mercy. Copyright © 2004 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.

Source: Mercy (BOA Editions Ltd., 2004)

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Poet Lucille Clifton 1936–2010

Subjects Time & Brevity, Living, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Lucille  Clifton

Biography

A prolific and widely respected poet, Lucille Clifton's work emphasizes endurance and strength through adversity, focusing particularly on African-American experience and family life. Awarding the prestigious Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize to Clifton in 2007, the judges remarked that “One always feels the looming humaneness around Lucille Clifton’s poems—it is a moral quality that some poets have and some don’t.” In addition to the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Living, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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