I learned yesterday evening that a person very dear to me had made her transition. Lucille Clifton is/was a poet, a mother, a children's books author, a grandmother, a teacher, and a wisewoman -- all roles she occupied fully, with grace, with abounding generosity, and with excellence. Once you'd read a few Lucille Clifton poems, you could never mistake her voice for someone else's again. Her poems were unmistakably hers, in part because she had a special way with words that came from her own unique vantage point on the world, and in part because she said the things that most other people could not -- or did not -- say. Once you'd been in her presence, you would never forget that warmth and would seek to feel it again at every opportunity.
She was my model, my teacher, and my friend. I'm too overwhelmed right now to put any more words together about her, at least not words that could begin to do her justice. But among the many gifts she left us are her words, her poems, and I'll quote one of my many favorites below as an example of what I admire about her and her work. I encourage those of you who are not already familiar with her poetry to check it out. And to those who knew: a hug and a squeeze of the hand.
study the masters
like my aunt timmie.
it was her iron,
or one like hers,
that smoothed the sheets
the master poet slept on.
home or hotel, what matters is
he lay himself down on her handiwork
and dreamed. she dreamed too, words:
some cherokee, some masai and some
huge and particular as hope.
if you had heard her
chanting as she ironed
you would understand form and line
and discipline and order and