1994

By Lucille Clifton 1936–2010 Lucille Clifton
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, "1994" from the terrible stories. Copyright © 1996 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.

Source: the terrible stories (BOA Editions Ltd., 1996)

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Poet Lucille Clifton 1936–2010

Subjects Gender & Sexuality, Time & Brevity, Growing Old, Living, Disappointment & Failure, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

Occasions Birthdays

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Metaphor

 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 Gender & Sexuality, Time & Brevity, Growing Old, Living, Disappointment & Failure, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Metaphor

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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