Wednesday, November 25, 2020



                      . . . at the river i stand,
                      guide my feet, hold my hand

i was raised

on the shore

of lake erie

e is for escape

there are more s'es

in mississippi

than my mother had


this river never knew

the kingdom of dahomey

the first s

begins in slavery

and ends in y

on the bluffs

of memphis

why are you here

the river wonders

northern born

looking across buffalo

you look into canada toronto

is the name of the lights

burning at night

the bottom of memphis

drops into the nightmare

of a little girl's fear

in fifteen minutes

they could be here

i could be there


not the river the state


and chaney

and goodman



and cheney

and goodman

and medgar

my mother had one son

he died gently near lake erie

some rivers flow back

toward the beginning

i never learned to swim

will i float or drown

in this mississippi

on the mississippi river

what is this southland

what has this to do with egypt

or dahomey

or with me

so many questions

northern born


Was it ten years ago now, or longer?
when Greg Joly and I read on the streets
to earn money for Katrina Relief, and this was
a poem I liked to read, and Greg had poems he
was ready to read and sometimes a brave soul
wandered across the street from the bar, plied
on some juice and he wanted to read, he didn't
care what. We let him. And Jim Koller came down
from Maine and read Ferlinghetti and Louise Landes Levi
stood in the December cold day and read with me and then
we went out with Susan and had hot Korean soup.
Lucille Clifton long ago came to Brattleboro and read
upstairs in the library and she was friendly vicious.
One of the finest readings I ever heard.

[ BA ]

Lucille Clifton
Blessing the Boats
New and Selected Poems
BOA Editions