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By Lucille Clifton

if mama

could see

she would see   

lucy sprawling   

limbs of lucy

decorating the

backs of chairs

lucy hair

holding the mirrors up   

that reflect odd   

aspects of lucy.


if mama

could hear

she would hear

lucysong rolled in the

corners like lint

exotic webs of lucysighs

long lucy spiders explaining   

to obscure gods.


if mama

could talk

she would talk

good girl   

good girl   

good girl

clean up your room.


Lucille Clifton, “[if mama/could see]” from Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir, 1969-1980. Copyright ©1987 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.

Source: The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (BOA Editions, Ltd. , 1997)

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Poet Bio

Lucille Clifton
Lucille Clifton was born in Depew, New York, and educated at Howard University, where she met fellow writers Sterling Brown, A.B. Spellman, and Toni Morrison. Clifton’s free verse lyrics — spare in form — often concern the importance of family and community in the face of economic oppression. Though rooted in folktales and a strong tradition of storytelling, many of Clifton’s poems are spirited, sometimes spiritual, explorations of race and gender.

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