Sorrow Song

Poem for a Tuesday — “Sorrow Song” by Lucille Clifton

for the eyes of the children,
the last to melt,
the last to vaporize,
for the lingering
eyes of the children, staring,
the eyes of the children of
of viet nam and johannesburg,
for the eyes of the children
of nagasaki,
for the eyes of the children
of middle passage,
for cherokee eyes, ethiopian eyes,
russian eyes, american eyes,
for all that remains of the children,
their eyes,
staring at us, amazed to see
the extraordinary evil in
ordinary men.

in Blessing the Boats, Rochester: BOA Editions, 2000, p. 39.

Lucille Clifton grew up in Buffalo, before attending Howard University and SUNY Fredonia. Her spare poems capture human experience in deeply revelatory ways, with hopeful focus on the enduring strength of the African American experience and family life. She wrote ten books of poetry and seventeen books for children, racking up a number of honors and awards, including the National Book Award for Blessing the Boats. Clifton was the Maryland Poet Laureate from 1974-1985 and served as the Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary’s College in Columbia, Maryland. Asked once how she wished to be remembered, Clifton said, “I would like to be seen as a woman whose roots go back to Africa, who tried to honor being human. My inclination is to try to help.”

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