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 Quilting: Poems 1987-1990 by Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 2001 by Lucille Clifton.



Where does the story of us begin?

Where does it end?

I swear I didn’t mean to scroll through every picture on your page

But I was looking on their page and they tagged a picture of you that reminded me of us

and down the rabbit hole I went

Where does the story of us begin?

Where does it end?

I loathed every picture of us

clicked “right click” “delete” so many times that my index and thumb went numb that last night

My heart was numb that last time

I wanted to erase you,

forget I ever loved you

Forget love

Now I frantically scroll

Through for

Traces that you loved me once

We were this happy, weren’t we?

What was this thing I was looking for outside of your arms?

What was it again?

The words “moved on” do not matter

I have “moved on”

You have “moved on”

We have moved on but what do I do with the piece of your heart I’m left holding?

What did you do with mine?

Every time I see you I’m taken right back to that place

That first place

The party

The introduction

The knowing you weren’t my type but not being able to hide the curiosity anyway

The sense that you could build me or break me with a sigh

Now you hold a woman who strangely looks like you

She is not beautiful

But she has your smile

You both smile in that guarded and disarming way I came to love and abhor

Have you moved on?

At the end, I only thought of the bad times, the trail of disappointments and never enoughs

Tonight I wonder what would have happened if I had turned back around that last night

What would have happened if I hadn’t thrown the bracelet in the trash right in front of your eyes?

What would have happened if that anger, the cruelty, that fear hadn’t…

Where did our story begin?

How will it end?

Does it end because you are now hers?

Even though I think of you sometimes?

What is an end when your face still lives behind my eyelids

When my fingers still find your page, time and time again?

What is an end when the beginning is just a click away?



Mothers love their babies before they know them
Trace the outline of their feet, the tiny hands they will one day hold
Stare with wide eyes at the marvelous being growing inside
Whisper tenderly to their bellies, “I am yours now. You are mine. We belong to one another.”

Mothers love their babies before themselves
Make ready a space for their tiny heads to lie
Go without, so that we never lack
Under sleep
Pour themselves out in gallon buckets until there isn’t a part of this dry, parched world that’s hasn’t been quenched by their love

Mothers write our futures in the stars
Shoo our self-doubt
Build fortresses around our ambitions
Will us to keep going, until we’ve reached the land we dreamt of as children
Let their babies know that they were loved,
well before they were on
anyone’s best of list
That they will always be loved

Mothers love when there is nothing more to say
Teach us that there is no such thing as perfection or too damaged
That the one who broke our heart was not the one at all
That true love is here and is also coming
That once again good fortune will come knocking

and find us home

– soo


I will always want myself. Always. Darling, I wrote myself a love poem two nights ago. I don’t know where you get this from but I am whole; woman who grows flowers between her teeth. I tend to my garden. I dance myself out of pain. You think women like me crawl for pity? You ever seen the offspring of a lion eat grass? This wanting of myself gets stronger with age. I host myself to myself. I am whole.

– Ijeoma Umebinyuo

Love Riot

He only loves me loudly
If there were a mountain,
he would shout his love a million times from its highest peak
If there were a water tower,
He would deface it in my name
With my face
Adorn it anew with words of adoration

But in this city of concrete and glass, there is neither mountain nor water tower in sight
So he settled for the subway station
Taps the man sitting beside him sheepishly and points
“that’s my woman”
With the sincerity and gentleness of a man overwhelmed by his good fortune

Sometimes, if I am lucky,
Only if I am lucky
My eyes will catch him first,
His pursed lips prepared to shout “I love you” at full force
And my kiss will intercede
Capture his words like a willing prisoner
Breathe deep his elation
His giddy innocence

I always play shy and surprised when I don’t catch him in time
I nuzzle into him and shield my sly giggles from the disapproving faces of our fellow passengers

I love you
I love you
I love you
He whispers into my ear
Lifts my face to look into it
And although I already know,
It’s always nice to hear
those words


Walk Away

walk away

tell the earth that i could not hold you

tell the ocean that i pushed you westward

tell the wind it was
my footsteps, night after night,
that frightened the warmth from our bed

tell the sun it was my salty kiss,
my lips that spoke too loudly,
that made you thirst for something other

fill this universe with the reasons why you must go
flood its shorelines with your well crafted excuses

i have heard enough already
i cannot hear your voice
without trembling again

so go,
riotous man,
find some other woman to hold on to
and leave me to write this poem in peace


This Land Is Yours


Sweet you

America is for you
Brown beauty

Lost in the wonder of this world, bright and new


is for you too
And you

Brilliant you

America is for you
Even when you are 

made to feel ashamed of your hue

Remember my sweet

Whatever you do  

America is for you too
At times it may leave you questioning, confused 

But America

This America is for you too
Your claim to it is as solid as theirs

No matter what they wish were true


Yes, America is for you too
Never bow your head in shame

Do not cower when they call you names

You belong here

Your roots are deep

You grew from this land that so many seek
Space and fortune

Time and chance

All came together in a provident dance

All conspired to give America you

In this era

In this space

In this time

In this place
You breathe one breath

In joy and strife

You make America, America

It owes you its life
Your fates are interlocking 

pieces of one 

A beautiful tapestry, 

woven and spun 
This place called America

Battered and brave

Was not fully America 

Until the day you came 
Claim it

Know it

Savor it too

This glorious America belongs to you

– By SOO

When I Pray

Only when I’m hungry
only when
is not really enough
you see, only when I’m hurting
only when the world crushes all of my dreams
only then do I look for you
wait on answers before I move
seek you
like those books say I should

hands clutching tightly
as it all just slips by
it’s at those times I need you
and want you by my side

but when its –
and parties to go to
warm smells of delicious
and music to dance to
people to kiss
lovers to hold on to

another year set aside for singing
when its –
arms flung open wide for loving
when dreams are all revealed to me
and destinies all fulfilled through me
when I have
more than enough even

plenty of all the right things
none of all the wrong things
when it’s all here
like I’d hoped for
I forget that you’re still in it

and you,
in silence
or in thunder, if needed
jealous lover, you call me back
reminding me that you’ve never left my side


When Earth Becomes An “It”

When the people call Earth “Mother,”
they take with love
and with love give back
so that all may live.

When the people call Earth “it,”
they use her
consume her strength.
Then the people die.

Already the sun is hot
out of season.
Our Mother’s breast
is going dry.
She is taking all green
into her heart
and will not turn back
until we call her
by her name.