What Have I Shaped Into

Lucille Clifton
Lucille Clifton (1936 – 2010)

won’t you celebrate with me

by Lucille Clifton

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

The idea of celebrating, a celebration of our lives every day is a hard thing to achieve.  There are too many things that rub at us, over due bills, nagging coughs, unpleasant tasks required of us at work or home, down right unpleasantness like having surgery or a tooth removed, not to mention deaths of loved ones and deaths of relationships, sap our energy for celebrations.  Loss and grief encroach on our sense of well being and the idea of celebration, of thinking of this very day as special fades into the background of grumbles, aches and pains and we forget that life is good.

Poetry as a meditative practice to reset my brain with positive images and thoughts is something I try to do daily as a way to remember to celebrate. I admit that part of my penchant for seeking out short poems, is I tire easily from longer poems if they fail to grab my interest early, in the first 10 lines. There is something pleasing about short poems, they feel contained, readable, a message waiting just for me, whereas long poems, short stories and novels feel much more impersonal.

Clifton asks an interesting question?  Do any of us have a model or is the challenges she faced unique? Certainly I benefited by being white and male in looking about at the world in seeing options of what I could be and can be, but in the end the path I took was very much individual. I appreciate the challenges she articulates even if I can never completely understand them.  I am not a woman, nor a person of color.  I never faced institutionalized racism.  Her path was much more challenging and filled with more barriers.  It’s why her poems are inspirational.  I think I can take something from her poetry and remember to celebrate and celebrate with her.  Celebrate what I have shaped into some kind of life.  How do you remember to celebrate?


a song of mary

by Lucille Clifton

somewhere it being yesterday.
i a maiden in my mother’s house.

the animals silent outside.
is morning.
princes sitting on thrones in the east
studying the incomprehensible heavens.
joseph carving a table somewhere
in another place.
i watching my mother.
i smiling an ordinary smile.

from Two-Headed Woman (1980)

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A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations.

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