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.”

Photo by omar alnahi on

Write the Vision

“Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.”
—Habakuk 2:2-3

I’ve been writing for most of my life. My fourth grade teacher Mrs. Carter read my first efforts at poetry and accused me of copying. In the sixth grade, I won a Young Author award for my mystery The Churchyard Phantom, the story of a girl detective who cracks a diamond smuggling ring run out of the local church. I have kept a journal for most of my adult life as a tool for reflection, prayer, and spiritual growth. For the past two decades, much of my writing has been for the church: sermons, newsletter articles, prayers, reports, and the weekly Blast. At some point, I figured out that writing is one of the things that God put me on earth to do, and I’ve tried to use my gift to honor and serve the Lord ever since.

As our Adirondack summer unfurls, I am thrilled and a little terrified to share about the latest twists in my writing journey. As I type, my first book has gone to print. Last fall, I decided that I really didn’t need a literary agent. Instead, I would send my manuscript out to a few publishing houses. Much to my surprise, the first publisher bit.
My book, Blest Be the Tie, is a collection of 24 interwoven fables of faith, set in the Adirondacks. The stories are grounded in a fictitious Presbyterian church, shepherded by our old friend (my male alter-ego) Pastor Bob. Blest Be the Tie is available now through the publisher ( or on Amazon. In the next few weeks, we’ll have copies available for purchase at church, too. These we will be able to sell at a 20% discount (the perk of being an author). If you would like to pre-order copies, give a call and let us know. One of these days, we’ll have a book release party to properly celebrate.

Blest Be the Tie- Wipf and Stock Publishers

Also this summer, I have embarked on Doctor of Ministry studies with Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Creative Writing and Public Theology. This innovative new program features traditional theological studies, as well as courses in the craft of writing, taught by professional authors in diverse fields: poetry, literary non-fiction, narrative journalism, memoir, short stories, writing for children, blogs, podcasts, and more. I’m eager to try new modes of writing that will reach beyond the walls of the church with the love of Jesus Christ. The objectives of the three-year program are to hone writing skills in a variety of genres, deepen my theological understanding, develop a vocational identity as a public theologian, and write a publishable manuscript. The reading for my first class has been challenging and mind-blowingly good from authors Toni Morrison, Willie James Jennings, Tracy K. Smith, and Serene Jones.

Perhaps this post about how I am using my gifts to grow as a public theologian, author, and servant of the Kingdom of God has got you thinking about your gifts. How is Jesus calling you to use your abilities to reach out and bless the world?

Blest be the tie!

“blessing the boats”
—Lucille Clifton

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

(from Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1998-2000. Rochester: BOA Editions, 2000)

This lovely poem was shared as a benediction by the awesome Rev. Dr. Mary O’Shan Overton,

as we prepared for our daring DMin venture.