Poem: “1994” by Lucille Clifton

0 Posted by - August 11, 2020 - BLACK WOMEN, History, LATEST POSTS

Lucille Clifton was an American poet, writer, and educator from Buffalo, New York. From 1979 to 1985 she was Poet Laureate of Maryland. Clifton was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

Lucille Clifton (born Thelma Lucille Sayles, in Depew, New York) grew up in Buffalo, New York, and graduated from Fosdick-Masten Park High School in 1953. She attended Howard University with a scholarship from 1953 to 1955, leaving to study at the State University of New York at Fredonia (near Buffalo).

Clifton was a prolific and widely respected poet, her work emphasizes endurance and strength through adversity, focusing particularly on African-American experience and family life. From 1985 to 1989, Clifton was a professor of literature and creative writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She was Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. From 1995 to 1999, she was a visiting professor at Columbia University.

Lucille Clifton received a Creative Writing Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1970 and 1973, and a grant from the Academy of American Poets. She received the Charity Randall prize, the Jerome J. Shestack Prize from the American Poetry Review, and an Emmy Award. Her children’s book Everett Anderson’s Good-bye won the 1984 Coretta Scott King Award.


By 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


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