The Mnemosyne Weekly: Poem Eleven


From Bareback Alchemy:

Lucille Clifton
cutting greens

I’ve been just nuts about this poem ever since the first time I read it. The “kissmaking hand,” the kitchen twisting “dark on its spine”–what a mythic image Clifton conjures of the hearth. And the culminating concept of consuming “the bond of live things everywhere” is just magic. Hunger is passion, passion hunger. We are what we eat; what we eat is our own dark passion.

If you’re not familiar with Clifton, in addition to writing poetry, she served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Poet Laureate for the State of Maryland, and Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. A well-known quote about her work is the following from Rita Dove: “In contrast to much of the poetry being written today—intellectualized lyricism characterized by an application of inductive thought to unusual images—Lucille Clifton’s poems are compact and self-sufficient…Her revelations then resemble the epiphanies of childhood and early adolescence, when one’s lack of preconceptions about the self allowed for brilliant slippage into the metaphysical, a glimpse into an egoless, utterly thingful and serene world.”

If you’re new to the blog, please check out the first Mnemosyne Post. And please keep suggesting titles! I always learn the most from the ones I would have never thought to select myself.

Have a great week, everyone! I know it will be a joy to memorize this poem.

cutting greens

curling them around
i hold their bodies in obscene embrace
thinking of everything but kinship.
collards and kale
strain against each strange other
away from my kissmaking hand and
the iron bedpot.
the pot is black,
the cutting board is black,
my hand,
and just for a minute
the greens roll black under the knife,
and the kitchen twists dark on its spine
and I taste in my natural appetite
the bond of live things everywhere.

Lucille Clifton, “cutting greens” from The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 1987 by Lucille Clifton.

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