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By Lucille Clifton

oh antic God

return to me

my mother in her thirties   

leaned across the front porch   

the huge pillow of her breasts   

pressing against the rail

summoning me in for bed.


I am almost the dead woman’s age times two.


I can barely recall her song

the scent of her hands

though her wild hair scratches my dreams   

at night.   return to me, oh Lord of then   

and now, my mother’s calling,

her young voice humming my name.


Lucille Clifton, “ ‘oh antic God’ ” from Mercy. Copyright © 2004 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.

Source: Mercy (BOA Editions, Ltd. , 2004)

Poet Bio

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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