a note to ms clifton

by Kiwanda Paul
PoetryCircle
Honorable Mention, May 2012
Judged by Shara McCallum


if there be a history for salt
in a black woman’s vibrations

and there be a gathering of poet tribes
to carry a female name across water

and if there be an anthem to hum
for the making of old bones

and there be a single root ribboning
through dahomey soil towards my daughter’s hands

i say lucille if there be a truth
this be the time for you. you. you.

and your twelve fingers


I was drawn to this elegy for the wonderful poet Lucille Clifton. The poem pays homage to Clifton by imitating her style and offering lines that are a kind of pastiche of those from Clifton’s own poetry, though revised and re-imagined in this context. The approach is a risky one that could fall flat but, instead, stands as a moving and fitting tribute. --Shara McCallum

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