We know we ought to be enemies,
her voice perhaps,
thirty three years off the Delta and
still caked in mud or
my hair perhaps,
bushed for the warrior women of Dahomey,
we know we ought to be enemies, only
Oh Mr. Faulkner
to prevail is such an awe full responsibility
to “have a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and
is an awe full responsibility but
we know we have to try it and
we are both trying to try it
red as the clay hills and blacker than loam
by Lucille Clifton
‘My Friend Mary Stone From Oxford Mississippi’ is copyright © BOA Editions, 2012, and reprinted from The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010, published by BOA Editions in 2012.
Notes from BOA Editions:
Lucille Clifton (1936-2010) was the 2007 recipient of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, as well as the 2010 Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America. Her final poetry collection, Voices, was published by BOA in September 2008. She was an award-winning poet, fiction writer, and author of children’s books. Her poetry book, Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000, won the 2000 National Book Award for Poetry. Two of Clifton‘s BOA poetry collections, Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980, and, Next: New Poems, were chosen as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in 1988, the only author ever to have achieved this, while The Terrible Stories was a finalist for the 1996 National Book Award. Clifton received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts; an Emmy Award from the American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences; the Shelley Memorial Prize; and the Charity Randall Citation. She served as a Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary’s College in Maryland. She was appointed a Fellow of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and elected as Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets in 1999. You can find out more about the recent Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 here, where you can also read a further poem from the book. Watch a Lucille Clifton playlist, curated by BOA Editions, at this link.
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