On October 28, 2002, a rainy night in Georgia, I drove from Columbus to Atlanta to hear the poet Lucille Clifton read at Georgia Tech. If I remember correctly, she opened by reciting the short poem, “Why Some People be Mad at Me Sometimes.”

Lucille Clifton died on Saturday. She was only the second woman, and the first African American, to be poet laureate of Maryland.

She told the audience that rainy night that she wanted to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted. Toward the end of the reading, she recited “Hommage to My Hips,” and then said, “In some cultures I am what’s happening.”

Our eyes met when she spoke to me and signed my book, A Good Woman: poems and a memoir 1969-1980. One of my favorite lines in this book, for its power:

Things don’t fall apart. Things hold. Lines connect in thin ways that last and last and lives become generations made out of pictures and words just kept.

Here’s the end of a poem of hers I love about a fox:

Child, i tell you now it was not
the animal blood i was hiding from,
it was the poet in her, the poet and
the terrible stories she could tell.
from “Telling Our Stories

Thelma Lucille Sayles, who became Lucille Clifton, was born in 1936 and lived 73 years.

Bookmark and Share