for the eyes of the children,
the last to melt,
the last to vaporize,
for the lingering eyes of the children, staring,
the eyes of the children of buchenwald,
of viet nam and johannesburg,
for the eyes of the children of nagasaki,
for the eyes of the children of middle passage,
for cherokee eyes, ethiopian eyes,
russian eyes, american eyes,
for all that remains of the children,
their eyes,
staring at us, amazed to see
the extraordinary evil in
ordinary men.


i beg my bones to be good but
they keep clicking music and
i spin in the center of myself
a foolish frightful woman
moving my skin against the wind and
tap dancing for my life.


if, as they say, this is somehow about myself,
this clash of kin across good farmland, then
why are the ghosts of the brothers and cousins
rising and wailing toward me in their bloody voices
who are you, nigger woman, who are you?

The poems of Lucille Clifton (19362010) reprise the African American experience. She also wrote wonderful poems about women, minorities, and the disadvantaged. Her poems are full of lifewarm, funny, passionate, and sometimes mordant. When asked why so many of her poems were short, she said that if you were in the kitchen fixing dinner with a child hanging on each leg, your poems would be short too. She published 14 collections of poems and won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2000. the poet, sorrow song, and I. at gettysburg are from The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton. Copyright 1974, 1987 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with permission from The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions Ltd.,