Monday, January 11, 2010

Lucille Clifton, Soul-Food, Life-Affirming Poetry

I'll never forget the first poem I read by Lucille Clifton.  After reading it I wanted to buy a gallon of red paint and graffiti it all over the walls in towns everywhere for everyone to read:  It was this poem, "To My Last Period":

to my last period

By:  Lucille Clifton

well girl, goodbye,
after thirty-eight years.
thirty-eight years and you
never arrived
splendid in your red dress
without trouble for me
somewhere, somehow.
now it is done,
and i feel just like
the grandmothers who,
after the hussy has gone,
sit holding her photograph
and sighing, wasn't she
beautiful? wasn't she beautiful?


And then I bought the awesome book shown above and discovered a feast of her poetry, words that feed my soul to this day and make me happy to be a female.  I read this one yesterday and it made me laugh out loud:

Hag Riding
By Lucille Clifton

is what i ask myself
maybe it is the afrikan in me
still trying to get home
after all these years
but when I wake to the heat of morning
galloping down the highway of my life
something hopeful rises in me
rises and runs me out into the road
and i lob my fierce thigh high
over the rump of the day and honey
i ride        i ride


And when all of my girlfriends and I used to be bitching and moaning about our periods, I'd often pause, smile to myself and think of this powerful, life-affirming poem:

poem in praise of menstruation
By Lucille Clifton

if there is a river
more beautiful than this
bright as the blood
red edge of the moon          if
there is a river
more faithful than this
returning each month
to the same delta          if there

is a river
braver than this
coming and coming in a surge
of passion, of pain          if there is

a river
more ancient than this
daughter of eve
mother of cain and of abel          if there is in

the universe such a river          if
there is some where water
more powerful than this wild
pray that it flows also
through animals
beautiful and faithful and ancient
and female and brave


If you listen to men and the advertisers of today, you'd think a woman's period was a curse, a thing to be destroyed, something evil and bad.  It is not so.  I have an old, out of print book entitled, "Her Blood is Gold" and it's an entire book in praise of women and menstruation throughout the ages.  I'm saving it for my granddaughter.  It is no curse, it is a river of life, a metaphor for all of life. 

Jesus's mother
Buddha's mother
Mohammad's mother
Confusius's mother
Lao-Tzu's mother
Ghandi's mother
Freud's mother
Whitman's mother
Your mother
My mother---
Without menstruation,
None of us would be here.  ~Marion

One of my best friends, Angie, once told me this monumental truth, something like this, "The reason men are always at war is because they do not bleed and therefore, have blood-lust.  We women bleed every month and get our fill of it."  And trust me on this girls, when it is gone, you will miss it.  I sometimes cry for the emptiness within me, for having let a male doctor talk me into a hysterectomy only a few years before I would have entered menopause.  If you're considering a hysterectomy, get a 2nd and 3rd opinion, then do your own research.  I miss my uterus, the part of me which held and nurtured my 2 babies close for eighteen magnificent months...  And guess what?  Ms. Clifton has a poem for that too:

poem to my uterus
By Lucille Clifton

you uterus
you have been patient
as a sock
while i have slippered into you
my dead and living children
they want to cut you out
stocking i will not need
where i am going
where am i going
old girl
without you
my bloody print
my estrogen kitchen
my black bag of desire
where can i go
without you
where can you go
without me


So, if you're looking for a book of poetry that celebrates every aspect of being a woman, I'd highly recommend Ms. Clifton's books.  "Blessing the Boats" has new and selected poems from 1988 to 2000.  Her poetry feeds your spirit and makes you proud to be a grrrrrlllll! Celebrate your womanhood this week!

Love & Blessings,



Renee said...

I love what your friend said about men and blood and war. Makes as much sense as anything else dealing with war.

Love Renee xoxo

Marion said...

Yes, Renee. We women are the hearts & brains of mankind, to be sure. Thanks for stopping by. Love & Blessings, dear friend!!

Kelly said...

I have Blessing the Boats. Yes, it's filled with good stuff!!

Hope you're starting to thaw out a little. Still got in the teens last night here, but warming up some today.

: )

Marion said...

Yes, Kelly, thankfully it's a little warmer here. I detest this cold!! (Thinking of moving to Mexico or Costa Rica....a tropical zone!!!!) ;-) Love & Blessings!

Karen said...

I'm laughing in recognition and sort of amazed that someone wrote such good stuff about periods! I love what your friend said, too, about war. Good point.

Marion said...

I know, Karen. It freaked me out just a little when I first read it, then I thought, why the hell not? Men have waxed poetic about everything from their brains to their balls. LMAO! Blessings, my friend...

catvibe said...

These are all awesome poems, I'm so glad you posted them! I'm glad I just found you on someone else's blog. When I moved my blog over I lost your link. Come visit Marion!

Lara Owen said...

Hi there! Beautiful, wondrous poems!
By the way, Her Blood Is Gold is now back in print and available from Amazon etc.

Lara Owen
the author!

Marion said...

Cat, it's so great to hear from you! I'll be over to visit your new site today. Blessings!

Lara, I'm SO HAPPY that your amazing book is back in print!! Now I can buy more copies for my nieces and daughters. Thanks for stopping by and I'll tell everyone I know to buy your amazing book!! Blessings!!

Wine and Words said...

Done with periods at 38! Wow, I wish! I read about some rainforest goop from Peru that helps with menstruation and that women who took it had periods well into their sixties! thank you. Passing on Peru.

Marion said...

Annie, she had 38 years of periods. I started mine at age 11 (too young!) so she was probably near 50 when she had her hysterectomy. Thanks for stopping by. I love you and miss you! Blessings!!

Woman in a Window said...

I think I like yours the best. I don't share the enthusiasm for the beast, as mine bites my ankles, but I do understand the power of woman. Well, sometimes. Much fun, Marion. I love her language.

Phoenix said...

These are all amazing poems! I love Lucille Clifton...I was actually going to quote a poem of her's (her title poem, "Blessing the Boats") for my Year in Review because I love it so much and it fits my life so well.

Hugs and love to you, Marion!

Marion said...

Well, Erin, mine was a pisser the past five years or so and I always had cramps from the get-go, but I kept a calendar and on the 28th day, it always came, as regular as clockwork. I miss it. It was my compass and, well, you'll see one day. I don't miss the cramps, but I'd trade them any day for the hot flashes, weight gain, hair loss and assorted other shitty things going on in my body! Thanks for stopping by. Blessings!

Phoenix, I knew you'd love Lucille Clifton. She's a woman's woman. Hugs and love back to you! Blessings!