March 15, 2010

For Mama Lucille | Julie Phillips Brown

What is it when the light falls away, the dark opening over a dampening earth in its bed, all the houses shuttered. At day’s end, the poet has passed, and the body of her work, lies silent.

So possessed of her body, she is in it still.

Where does she wander now.

My Mama moved among the days
like a dreamwalker in a field;
seemed like what she touched was hers
seemed like what touched her couldn’t hold,
she got us almost through the high grass
then seemed like she turned around and ran
right back in
right back on in

To share some part of the world with the Lucille Clifton was extraordinary—her fierce grace, her keen gaze. To know she was passing through it all, the same as me, as I read and loved her poems. We are her dreamwalkers now. We are what could not hold her, even though she touched us.

After her death, I began reading her first collection, Good Times, with a friend. I had read so many of her books, but never the first. What was it we sought in beginning again? We went in search of that womb, a mother for us all. To go back to our origin, when things were still possible and unfolding, for her, and for us: a good time, when something still might happen. We hoped she would not run from us, not from us, this one time

*         *         *         *         *

If something should happen
          After Lucille Clifton

for instance
if the book should open
and spread among the earth
and below earth open the seeds
against the sweep of the sky
if the body should open
and spread among the earth
and below earth open the sweep
of the sky
if all our bodies
should open to each other
and open the book
and open the earth holding its seed of the body
and open the sweep of the skies
and all our words wash together
in a rush of breaking
we will run
we will keep on
right on running

Julie Phillips Brown

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