Sometimes the online world reminds me of Salman Rushdie’s image from Haroun and the Sea of Stories: In this tale written for children (putatively) stories live in the sea like currents. All you have to do is sit in your boat, reach your hand into the water and pull one in. Yesterday’s post about Diane Ackerman took its title, Shape-Shifters and Magical Reinventors, All, from a quote from one of her writings that I selected to share.

Within hours I came across a posting at one of my favorite blogs, Virgin in the Volcano, about the passing of poet Lucille Clifton. As always VV has smart things to say about Clifton and her work, worthy of a read in full.

The poem by Clifton that VV chose to post is called “shapeshifter poems.” Ah, yeah.

The hand in the water: it has a meaning all its own.

RIP, Lucille Clifton. And thank you VV for being in confluence once again.

shapeshifter poems

1

the legend is whispered
in the women’s tent
how the moon when she rises
full
follows some men into themselves
and changes them there
the season is short
but dreadful shapeshifters
they wear strange hands
they walk through the houses
at night their daughters
do not know them

2

who is there to protect her
from the hands of the father
not the windows which see and
say nothing no the moon
that awful eye not the woman
she will become with her
scarred tongue who who who the owl
laments into the evening who
will protect her this prettylittlegirl

3

if the little girl lies
still enough
shut enough
hard enough
shapeshifter may not
walk tonight
the full moon may not
find him here
the hair on him
bristling
rising
up

4

the poem at the end of the world
is the poem the little girl breathes
into her pillow the one
she cannot tell the one
there is no one to hear this poem
is a political poem is a war poem is a
universal poem but is not about
these things this poem
is about one human heart this poem
is the poem at the end of the world

Read Clifton’s obit in the Baltimore Sun here.


Poet Lucille Clifton

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