Some poetry help you see who and what you are. I keep learning that every day. Lucille Clifton is my muse. I travelled for work over the weekend and carried along 2 of her books of poetry: ‘How to carry water’ and ‘Quilting.’ I was drawn to both because they help me see who I am, like the blessings of a tide. While reading, I came across this unnamed piece she wrote to mothers. I have always looked to Lucille Clifton for inspiration, partly because I see myself in her and this piece. Her role as a mother, a poet, a woman grateful for the many wild blessings words bring, makes it possible for me to also imagine these wild blessings for myself. She cleared the space for many people to see and know themselves better. Also left a lot behind for the next generation to pick up where many left of in this race called life. This piece below is for women and anyone else to keep running into all that we can ever hope to become.

By Lucille Clifton

I spent yesterday reflecting on this poem of hers about women and what we do in life and work. She started by describing a woman, one just like her, similar to the one in proverbs too. Often the last to sleep, but the first to be up. Always coordinating her life, those of her children and partner and everyone else in between. Yet, despite all that, she still takes the time to put something down, words like ‘Good Times’ or what the grass knew. Gift of understanding may not be hers. But yet, her space at the table is vital, like her own life.

Women like that, those who juggle life and work and do it well or not, deserve to be on many tables. Yet are not. Like Lucille, I think about that woman, somewhere, somehow, like me. I don’t take anything for granted. Every single day is a gift worthy of praises, if not for anything, at least because we got another day. Surely, there will be another and another and so I think about what to do with each day a lot.

Today and for the past couple of days, to be surrounded by women like me, those who generously opened up their worlds so that I too can come in and find a seat at the table have inspired me to write this piece. The gift of understanding is beyond me. The little we dream is precious and possible in their company. It’s this and a prayer that what we continue beyond here and now, becomes all we want. That in a sense is what we are. I pray that the brilliance, the wisdom, the contribution of all women, those like me and those not like me, be kept alive, every single time, we collectively open up and let others come in and find their seat at the table. Keep women!

Lucile Clifton once shared, how our lives are a circular stair. It keeps turning through time. To know why, we circle the world and back, one year after the other, is to know light.

I am flooded by the brilliance of light. A majestic ray, that blooms, past the very speed of itself. The very speed of light. Something inside is open, and as present as the very air we breath. Something inside is on fire, it’s flames engulfing this air, I breathe. To know light, is to turn in circles. A never ending spiral of circles, that keeps turning and turning till no end. A spiral of light, that keeps shining and shining with no end. The reason I speak of light, is for you to see what happens when eyes are wide open. Depths too, are wide open. Brilliance is pouring in. Light is pouring out. I am becoming my wildest dreams. Seeing all this illumination within. Makes me look to the mountains above. The one who made heaven and earth. Helps me rise to a light above. I am like an eagle that soars, like an eagle that soars to the skies, an eagle that soars with words to the skies. And light is leading me all the way.

When my children say your name, Lucille Clifton, I smile.

How to carry water comes to mind. How to sail through this to that too.

I often wonder how you lived. Lived even beyond your own understanding. A good woman, an ordinary woman, a woman whose voice is light too.

I’ll never forget your Black BC’s, some of the days of Everett Anderson, moments where good-byes are not enough.

I too miss my dad, through and through and the hurt is still too deep.

But then your book of light, the notion that silence of God, is God, is the grace I need to reach beyond stars.

You for whom your blackness is like a star.

If I should ever find myself lost, if I should ever find myself in a garden of regret, I will settle against the bark of trees, hide within the fierce protection of falling leaves, and begin always with you.

I listened to Lucille Clifton’s children, Sidney, Alexia and Gillian today as they reflected on their mothers legacy with the Enoch Pratt Library. It’s was on the occasion of their mom’s death as she passed away today, 12 years ago. From them, I heard these words which I have kept here for myself and you all.

With Lucille’s daughter celebrating her legacy with Enoch Pratt Library.

Freedom, creativity, courage. The world needs the spirit, the light that moved in her. The world needs Lucille. She was a wellspring of strength, a mother, an extraordinary woman with a brilliant message. That creativity and art are necessary. Normal too and an outpouring of ourselves, our humanity, our strong foundation, for the ways of the world. The flow of life, like flow of a home should begin with creativity, begin with normalizing that which we all are, creative. Let your words speak your power, whether in joy or pain, sorrow or laughter. It’s okay to be sorrowful and joyful, all of that is part of life, being resilient, honoring and accepting all these things. That and reclaiming all that was once lost so generations never forget the stories and doing everything in life with a purpose.

Lucille lives on.

I love reflecting on the lives of Black authors and poets. My favorite being Lucille Clifton always. Her ways are God’s ways to me for he used her to minister to me. I am fascinated by the way she extended and enhanced her life as a writer, a mother, and a poet. Her love for all things Black and motherhood had sheer clarity. She knew how to use words to help you live beyond yourself. She used words to reflect on the past, the present and what generations after generations in the future needed to value and treasure, beginning with themselves, their legacy too.

There is a smooth evenness and passion in the ways she used words to reclaim her sense of light, reclaim history and make all we do, domestic, motherhood, even writing, seem extraordinary. She was extraordinary. Her words help make my world today coherent. She helped me remember and recover all sorts of stories from my life through words. She helped me assert agency as a storyteller, my way, however I choose to define it even with no model. She helps me accept my life as a mother and a scholar honestly. She helps me remain mindful of my purpose, my shared struggle with others, along this journey through life. She helps me experience community, yearn for it too. A community of like-minded people on a quest to find their light through the darkness of life. Those committed to becoming extraordinary in their own way. That’s what Lucille does to me. That she died today in 2010 is another reminder that so many of our great ones are gone and we are left to pick up where they left off. Lucille would want that. I intend to celebrate her always. Something tried to kill this, and has failed terribly.

Perhaps the lessons from falling snow,

is that every fall brings disruption.

Every disruption brings change.

Every change brings power.

Every power brings insight.

Every insight brings abundance.

Every abundance brings grace.

Every grace is sublime.

I agree with the snow.

What if anything can we learn from snow? The past 2 days my family and I have been stuck inside as Saint Louis became perpetually covered in snow. Luckily, we knew the snow was coming so I dashed to the market and stocked up the house with food. Day 1 was quiet as it felt like a hoax at first. There were no snow for most of the early morning and we began to wonder whether it was all a fluke. Then as if on cue, snow started to fall and it came down fast and furious. We watched as the snow fell through out the day and into the next. Every where we looked as far as our eyes could see was covered in snow. Beautiful snow too if I might add. We took the time to play games, watched movies and well simply enjoyed being around each other.

Until this morning. I was launched back into homeschooling this morning as one of my child’s school decided that 2 days of doing nothing was a lot. I agree, but homeschooling. I am still tormented by the experience from 2020 and 2021 that the thought of it gives me anxiety. When it was time, I prayed our internet would go out. It didn’t. My son was not in the mood for it. I wasn’t either. We both summoned enough courage and went on it. He managed to do some language which he did not like. I got to see once more why I hated homeschooling. We both had no patience for it. He was disruptive in class. I saw again that he can’t seem to emotionally regulate himself when frustrated with work. I was equally frustrated watching him struggle. All the anxiety from homeschooling kept creeping back for the two of us. I asked if we could do the work on our own. We did. He sat through the work and finished it on his own. Then we returned for Math. They had to prepare for some tests. He once again had no patience. I didn’t either. We took the work, logged out and struggled but finished it on our own.

Then we came back for reading. They had to read a story about Bats. I opened the book and told him to start reading. I expected him to become frustrated. He wasn’t. I also expected that he would log out as he did with the other 2 classes. He didn’t. Rather he sat and read through the entire work. I looked at him perplexed. Here was a kid who refused to sit through other classes earlier and now he was looking forward to reading and actually reading along. I left him alone to go to my work. He stayed on to read with the class. When he was done he came to look for me. I asked if he was done, he said, yes. I said, ok we can take a break now. Then he asked whether he could go out to the snow now that it is time for recess. I said recess? Confused.

It turns out that they only reason he loved reading is that it’s the last class before recess. He said his teacher told him that he could go outside and play in the snow after reading and so he would like to go play. I looked at him in awe. So the only reason he sat through reading was because he was looking forward to the snow. We both looked outside the window. And I kept wondering what if anything can I take from the snow today. It helped to calm my son. What are the lessons from the snow for me, following my anxious morning with homeschooling. That’s when I realize that though every snow fall can lead to disruptions, every disruption change, every change can still be powerful, if only we discern for ourselves the lessons from the snow, it’s abundance and grace. I am learning. Keep this for you.

And in full disclosure, the poetry above was inspired by the work of Lucille Clifton, the second black author I honor this Black history month. In case you are just following, I plan to honor a black author/artist every day I write this month. Yesterday, was bell hooks. Today the indomitable Lucille Clifton, one of my most favorite poet and one I highly recommend you learn about. She is my muse through writing poetry and her work, the lessons of the falling leaves, inspired today’s poem.

Lucille Clifton

As rough as the grains of garri.

As smooth as the mold of eba.

This collection of lists to keep.

A collection of cares so deep.

Unclear what I’m doing.

But doing so with clarity.

Honest, honesty.

Of life as a mother.

Life as a health researcher too.

All in a time of a pandemic.

Where our ways do not connect.

Our writings do not fulfill.

What hearts and souls need.

So I continue to continue.

Radically open to new forms of brewing.

All still as rough as grains of garri.

But slowly turning to be as smooth as the mold of eba.

Lol. This is my attempt at poetry writing. I have been expanding my writing with poetry, trying to fuse my life as a mother, as a researcher using words that connect. I long to break free from the prison science writing has kept me in for too long. I’m in the mood for my writing to move beyond the space we call science. To move beyond the limits of the journals in our field. To reach people, especially those that look like me. Those in search of ways to find healing. I’m in the spirit to reach you and teach you. That our healing is a collective experience. Ours is a journey we can begin together, begin too from a place of love, whether different or the same. I’ll rather you stay just as you are. Stay different if it pleases your soul. I have no answer. Nothing I have been taught will free us from the prison we find ourselves. So I’m in the mood of going along the journey together with you. Watching as you discover all that is in you. All that is in me too. Listening and learning because we choose this path. Holding our hands together through the struggles and triumphs. I expect the struggles and I hope you prepare for them too. But most of all I am prepared to love us and I choose this place as our starting point. Plus the light that came to Lucille. And we are not done yet. We will continue to continue. Where we have been, all our lives is where we are going. With this collection of cares, this collection for us we begin to keep with love.

My teacher through poetry is the sterling Lucille Clifton.

With Black History Month coming up, I will try my best to perfect write poems, not as luxury, but to pay homage to many beautiful, black, gifted writers, that have gone to their heavenly rest. These they all did theirs best, I am entirely grateful that their words remain for all of us to keep. The next month is dedicated to keep words from them for me, for you.

Imagine being described as honest, clear-eyed or simply impressive. These words were used by Toni Morrison herself to describe Lucille Clifton’s memoir ‘Generations.’ Lucille Clifton was more than a poet. The best too if I might add. She was a mother to six children and a prolific children’s book author. Her name Lucile meant light and she lived in light to the fullest. She also came from a line of Dahomey woman, whom her father would say walked from New Orleans to Virginia.

Generations is one Lucille’s storytelling at its finest. She narrates the life of her African American family through slavery and hard times and beyond. She also shares her thoughts about the death of her father and grandmother and all the life and love and triumph that came before and still remains as a powerful testimony of her family’s resilience through time. These are lives Tracy K Smith described in the foreword of the book, that America’s dominant history has let fall in the shadow. Stories that have been left unmarked, untended, by the country’s preferred view of itself. And Lucille Clifton deftly brings all of them to light, allowing these stories to demand their rightful space.

In this season of my life, I am chasing furiously the break light that came to Lucille. She embodies all I want to become as a writer, a storyteller too. Light speaks through her and is her like a life force. Towards the end of Generations, she described how her Dad once shared that ‘we come out of it better than they did.’ By it, he was referring to slavery and how despite its cruelty, we are still here. And the next generation and the generation after them walk with confidence through the world, free sons and daughters of free folks. Though the generations before went through awful things, her grandmother Lucy for example, was the first Black woman legally hanged in the state of Virginia. But yet the things that make and hold every generation together are more than the awful things they experienced. Our lives are our line and we go on. We do, illuminating all the light that comes to us. Like her, I want to feel all the love and life and triumph of my ancestors gathering in my bones. Because of them, we are here and for them, generations of us will remain. Her invitation to a radical reconfiguration of self is my muse for this year. We get to listen this February as her daughters celebrate the life and legacy of their mother. The event is free and you can sign up here. https://calendar.prattlibrary.org/event/annual_lucille_clifton_celebration#.YfV9kCRMEWM

Fun fact: My husband and I got married at this library.

I woke up this morning refusing to answer the door. Refusing to let the rays of the day seep in and envelope my being. Then I remembered Lucille. I remembered her praise for impossible things. Blessed things too. You might as well answer the door, she would also say. For truth is furiously knocking. The truth, I am tired of things that make we dwell in nothingness, even if they knock furiously. Things that lack fire. Things that lack air. Things with no fight. Things with no might. I refuse to answer the door. For days with no light might as well be days full of night, days out of sight, days full of flights. Nothing seems right. All the birds are in flight. This plight is downright agonizing when disruptions are all in sight. I’ll rather be a bird in flight. And fly to new heights. Or stay buried like fig trees through cold nights and moonlight skies. I’ll rather let doors close so long as I ignite my light, and ignore their plight. So here is to days when truth knocks. Let it knock and keep doors closed. Lucille may not like this, but you will thank me later. Thank me for making your light, finite, through doors you choose to close. Close them.

Light slowly starts to seep in, during:

Moments of intense smear, turned

Moments of intense fear, which birth

Moments of intense tear, that lead to

Moments of intense here and now, of

Moments of intense revere, that opened

Moments of intense clear, for you,

As your light slowly starts to seeps in.

Keep these moments of light.

Let’s fly above our possibilities, Lucille Clifton once said to my spirit, to which I responded, not just my possibilities, but how about flying above our abilities. Above my ambitions. Above their admissions. Above any ammunitions. And above their assumptions.

Then the spirit moved me and said you are onto something, keep flying above your possibilities.

To which I added, I will and I will fly even above any cancellations. Above any circulation. Above any clarification and above any coercion. I will fly above my cognition. Above any colonization. Above any condition above any competition, and above any confrontation. Then I will fly above their coalitions. Above their confusion. Above their connections. Above any constitution. Above any declaration. Above any deduction. Above any definitions. Even above any deliberations.

Lucille gently whispered, keep flying, mere mortals can’t keep up.

They shouldn’t because I will fly above their domination. Above their emotions. Above anything they envision. Above their expectations. Above their explanations. I am so prepared to fly above any federation. Above any fiction. Above any fixation. Above any friction. Above any generalizations. Above any generation too.

I am ready to fly above their globalizations. Above their glorification. Above their hallucinations. Above their hesitations. I am ready to fly above their humiliation too. Above their idolizations. Above their illusions. Above their imaginations. I am ready to go above their inaction. Above their inattention. Above their inconsiderations. Above their intentions. Above their interventions. Above their intimidations. Above their lamentations. Above their legions.

I am ready to fly above even their litigations. I mean I am ready to go above their malfunction. Above their manipulation. Above their marginalization. Above any micro aggressions. Above their misrepresentation.

Let them hear you, Lucille, shouted now. Show off your possibilities now.

I will and I will soar above any negation. Above any notion, tied to my oblivion. I will soar above any obligation. Above any opinion. Above any oppression. From above any opposition. Above their oration. Even above their organizations and above their overreactions.

I will soar above any perceptions you have. Above any permission you need. Above any petition to rise above my even my own positions. I will soar above any qualification. Above any questions. Above any rationalization of when I soared above your recognition.

Lucile said only high is high enough, keep flying.

I will and I will soar above any rebellion. Above any reflection of why I choose to rise above any restrictions. I will rise above rejections. Above revelations. Above any situation. Above their satisfaction. Above any speculations. Above their succession.

I will also soar above any summation. Above any tension. Above any tradition. Above any transformation. Above any translation of why I am above your transfixion.

For Lucille, I will fly above any underestimation to of when I flew above possibilities. Above any under representation too of why I flew above your undervaluation.

I will fly above any vilification. Above an vindication. Above any violation. Above any visualizations. Even above their vocations.

Now I am flying above their vision. Life is grand above their vision. I am soaring above their vision’s vision. Above my vision’s vision. Above any vision of what it means to fly above possibilities when impossible is above every vision.

P.s: This was a fun keep to write, to fly above possibilities and I love the way Lucille Clifton spoke to my spirit. Keep this one. It’s truly special. Lucille would be happy.

Lucile Clifton once shared, how our lives are a circular stair. It keeps turning through time. To know why, we circle the world and back, one year after the other, is to know light.

I am flooded by the brilliance of light. A majestic ray, that blooms, past the very speed of itself. The very speed of light. Something inside is open, and as present as the very air we breath. Something inside is on fire, it’s flames engulfing this air, I breathe. To know light, is to turn in circles. A never ending spiral of circles, that keeps turning and turning till no end. A spiral of light, that keeps shining and shining with no end. The reason I speak of light, is for you to see what happens when eyes are wide open. Depths too, are wide open. Brilliance is pouring in. Light is pouring out. I am becoming my wildest dreams. Seeing all this illumination within. Makes me look to the mountains above. The one who made heaven and earth. Helps me rise to a light above. I am like an eagle that soars, like an eagle that soars to the skies, an eagle that soars with words to the skies. And light is leading me all the way.