A year ago, I was in the hospital due to some GI issues that brought me close to dying. I have been wondering how I would feel come this makeshift anniversary. Strangely enough, I am in the same mix of life as then.
That said, I do see myself in a different place in the light of the many gifts since then: the gift of my first wedding anniversary; the gift of seeing Everything We Think We Hear printed as well as having The Book of Flight soar into the (e)world; the gift of doing poetry readings in my hometown again; the gift of having my family hear me read poems and share what I love; the gift of new projects and new friends.
This makeshift anniversary has brought up complicated feelings to say the least. And yet, the feelings aren’t exactly unmanageable or strange. When I think of poets able to navigate this terrain of human fatefulness, Lucille Clifton comes readily to mind.
In the poem below, Clifton describes “sorrows” through imagery that evokes a mix of angels and the duende. It’s exactly this mix of the living and the dying that poetry manages to bring to understanding one lyric at a time.
sorrows – Lucille Clifton
who would believe them winged
who would believe they could be
beautiful — who would believe
they could fall so in love with mortals
that they would attach themselves
as scars attach and ride the skin
sometimes we hear them in our dreams
rattling their skulls — clicking
their bony fingers
they have heard me beseeching
as i whispered into my own
cupped hands — enough — not me again
but who can distinguish
one human voice
amid such choruses