Ode to Lucille Clifton


By Sam Yau


on the day of your passing,

you lift the veil of transition,

walk through a five-pace fog


a wild river flows above,

shimmering the blood-red

of the moon’s edge


Jesus would not miss it, neither

would Yemoja or Kali


millions flock to the gates of heaven

to thank you for the virtue and dignity

they gleaned from your words while

living their humble lives on earth


your poems— short, unadorned,

punctuated with silence, sparseness,

their essence sculpted on a kitchen table

surrounded by six children, living and dead—

imbue the mundane with the sacred


you did not shy away from life’s horrors,

truth-telling in the plainest ways,

but always with optimism and love:

that gist of your soul that gushes from

every pore of your body that you adore


you are the bridge people cross to

find the real strength in their spirit


you rise again

and rise again

to dance





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