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By Lucille Clifton

July 29, 2011

I have to thank Goddard advisor Rick Benjamin for singing this poem to us yesterday. It’s about time I overcame my prejudice against poetry, don’t you think?

to my friend, Jerina

listen,
when i found
there was no safety
in my father’s house
i knew there was none
anywhere. you are right
about this, how i nurtured
my work not myself, how i left
the girl wallowing in her own shame
and took on the flesh
of my mother. but listen,
the girl is rising in me, not willing
to be left to the silent fingers
in the dark, and you are right
she is asking for more than
most men are able to give,
but she means to have what she has earned,
sweet sighs, safe houses, hands she can trust.

Credit: Copyright © 1987 by Lucille Clifton.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Cat permalink
    July 29, 2011 10:05 am

    You have a prejudice against poetry? That surprises me because I think back to all the poetry readings we had in college.

    Great poem, by the way. I can only imagine what it was like to be sung.

  2. August 1, 2011 10:41 am

    Yeah, I dunno . . . I’ll show up for poetry, occasionally, if it’s part of a friendship / community thing, but it’s not something I explore on my own, and much of it (including slam poetry, or Nikki Giovanni, or June Jordan, or Audre Lorde, or Mary Oliver, let alone Yeats or Whitman or Dickinson) doesn’t seem to touch me in the way it does many people. So far one of my favorite styles is haiku: the brief, slow, concentrated imagery seems to evoke a response from me more easily than rolling, rollicking poexclamations. Some of the Rumi poems delight me, too, but I hear they are a bit of a translation sham . . .

    When Rick says “singing a poem,” I think he just means speaking it aloud in a thoughtful, emphatic way. Letting the voice be melodic, but not like a song with a true tune, you know? Maybe if I practice reading poems aloud more often they’ll begin to sink into me. If you have any recommendations I’d be grateful. :)

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