o little drops


wishes for sons

BY LUCILLE CLIFTON


i wish them cramps.
i wish them a strange town
and the last tampon.
i wish them no 7-11.
i wish them one week early
and wearing a white skirt.
i wish them one week late.
later i wish them hot flashes
and clots like you
wouldn’t believe.    let the
flashes come when they
meet someone special.
let the clots come
when they want to.
let them think they have accepted
arrogance in the universe,
then bring them to gynecologists
not unlike themselves.


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wishes for sons

BY LUCILLE CLIFTON

i wish them cramps.
i wish them a strange town
and the last tampon.
i wish them no 7-11.

i wish them one week early
and wearing a white skirt.
i wish them one week late.

later i wish them hot flashes
and clots like you
wouldn’t believe.    let the
flashes come when they
meet someone special.
let the clots come
when they want to.

let them think they have accepted
arrogance in the universe,
then bring them to gynecologists
not unlike themselves.

THE PRESIDENT’S WIFE
Sometimes I wonderIs Beyoncé who she says she isWill I accidentally live foreverAnd be sentenced to smile at menI wish were deadIs loneliness culturalAre lips trueIs a mother still a selfDo I glow in the darkWhat if men are wrongAnd English isn’t sound blue isn’t colorEyes are the window to stormAm I too transparent in this skirt suitIs the skirt suit a social constructWhat does money costShould I stop talking while the oceanTakes California hot breath takes the CapitalWill ritual outlast what visitsSleeping daughters with bad wordsWhat lets some girls grow warm and tallThe arms of their loversAre rich and imaginary like meIs desire making me sickBuilding in my organs like ammunitionTiptoeing behind my eyes untilI’m digital I’m staticIs it called desire can it speakWhat does beautiful cost do I afford itDo I roll off the tongueIs America going to be sickWill fat kids inherit the earthWill you untag me from that pictureDo you think I should cut my bangsDo I have any friendsDo you believe in meShould I go to sleepTry again harder tomorrowShould I answer the phoneWho is itWho want the world like it isSpoke Baraka can you hear him nowDo you understandAre calories and sitcomsHere to make me sadAm I a moon no one seesDoes my lipstick look okayAm I growing tiredOf my alternative lifestyleOr would I like a fresh glassIs there something spectacularIn fallen trees ancient hieroglyphsHippie towns twentysomethings will theySave usIs it possible to disappearWhat’s it like to be the first anything

THE PRESIDENT’S WIFE

Sometimes I wonder
Is Beyoncé who she says she is
Will I accidentally live forever
And be sentenced to smile at men
I wish were dead
Is loneliness cultural
Are lips true
Is a mother still a self
Do I glow in the dark
What if men are wrong
And English isn’t sound blue isn’t color
Eyes are the window to storm
Am I too transparent in this skirt suit
Is the skirt suit a social construct
What does money cost
Should I stop talking while the ocean
Takes California hot breath takes the Capital
Will ritual outlast what visits
Sleeping daughters with bad words
What lets some girls grow warm and tall
The arms of their lovers
Are rich and imaginary like me
Is desire making me sick
Building in my organs like ammunition
Tiptoeing behind my eyes until
I’m digital I’m static
Is it called desire can it speak
What does beautiful cost do I afford it
Do I roll off the tongue
Is America going to be sick
Will fat kids inherit the earth
Will you untag me from that picture
Do you think I should cut my bangs
Do I have any friends
Do you believe in me
Should I go to sleep
Try again harder tomorrow
Should I answer the phone
Who is it
Who want the world like it is
Spoke Baraka can you hear him now
Do you understand
Are calories and sitcoms
Here to make me sad
Am I a moon no one sees
Does my lipstick look okay
Am I growing tired
Of my alternative lifestyle
Or would I like a fresh glass
Is there something spectacular
In fallen trees ancient hieroglyphs
Hippie towns twentysomethings will they
Save us
Is it possible to disappear
What’s it like to be the first anything




Badly chosen lover (1963)
Rosemary Tonks





Criminal, you took a great piece of my life,And you took it under false pretences,That piece of time– In the clear muscles of my brainI have the lens and jug of it!Books, thoughts, meals, days, and houses,Half Europe, spent like a coarse banknote,You took it — leaving mud and cabbage stumps.
And, Criminal, I damn you for it (very softly).My spirit broke her fast on you. And, Turk,You fed her with the breath of your neck– In my brain’s clear retinaI have the stolen love-behaviour.Your heart, greedy and tepid, brothel-meat,Gulped it, like a flunkey with erotica.And very softly, Criminal, I damn you for it.


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Badly chosen lover (1963)

Rosemary Tonks

Criminal, you took a great piece of my life,
And you took it under false pretences,
That piece of time
– In the clear muscles of my brain
I have the lens and jug of it!
Books, thoughts, meals, days, and houses,
Half Europe, spent like a coarse banknote,
You took it — leaving mud and cabbage stumps.

And, Criminal, I damn you for it (very softly).
My spirit broke her fast on you. And, Turk,
You fed her with the breath of your neck
– In my brain’s clear retina
I have the stolen love-behaviour.
Your heart, greedy and tepid, brothel-meat,
Gulped it, like a flunkey with erotica.
And very softly, Criminal, I damn you for it.


FARM HUBBUB
They will always be building buildings.
That time in the good mountains I spent,flea markets we went to,their appetizer, chintz. Salvageable mutts.Anyway, that’s what it means.Don’t get all pushed out of shape,and there she was! Their new technique designedto stop us, or at least infringein some tilapia joint.Porcelain tools make it alright.No use, it’s fighting again. The great collapsibleretro.

FARM HUBBUB

They will always be building buildings.

That time in the good mountains I spent,
flea markets we went to,
their appetizer, chintz. Salvageable mutts.

Anyway, that’s what it means.
Don’t get all pushed out of shape,
and there she was! Their new technique designed
to stop us, or at least infringe

in some tilapia joint.
Porcelain tools make it alright.
No use, it’s fighting again. The great collapsible
retro.


I hung my friend on the tree as a form of preservation, an ornamental way of looking at her from below. I was in the mood for worship I confessed everything, forgot to use my stage name. She knew the actual me, firing range old man playing me that record in secret. Maybe I meant to give her my real name dared her to blackmail me, give me something to live— I shut up when I heard how my voice sounded. Somehow somehow I gave her all my power somehow she lives each day not using it. I told you she was lovely beneath her dress I was low on some bar unfit for this bond & I knew it. I knew if I passed my friend down as an heirloom generations would keep her safe, her eyes make  themselves valuable. You are sparkling I said placing her on the branch, captive applause sounding green. You are my best friend—as soon as I said it I knew it was a lie, I didn’t need tenderness, I needed to be a letter soaking in watercolor, hey what’s it like to be above me? Taut bows old arrows aimed at the idea of my friend’s DNA braiding itself up into myth & pseudonym. My curiosity killed my desire to decorate itself. The tree looked like I’d loved it. View Larger

I hung my friend on the tree as a form
of preservation, an ornamental way of looking
at her from below. I was in the mood for worship
I confessed everything, forgot to use my stage name.
She knew the actual me, firing range old man playing me
that record in secret. Maybe I meant to give her my real name
dared her to blackmail me, give me something to live—
I shut up when I heard how my voice sounded. Somehow
somehow I gave her all my power somehow she
lives each day not using it. I told you
she was lovely beneath her dress I was low
on some bar unfit for this bond & I knew it. I knew
if I passed my friend down as an heirloom
generations would keep her safe, her eyes make
themselves valuable. You are sparkling
I said placing her on the branch, captive
applause sounding green. You are
my best friend
—as soon as I said it I knew it
was a lie, I didn’t need tenderness, I needed to be a letter
soaking in watercolor, hey what’s it like
to be above me? Taut bows old arrows aimed at the idea
of my friend’s DNA braiding itself up into myth
& pseudonym. My curiosity killed my desire
to decorate itself. The tree looked like I’d loved it.


Nothing touches like tan velvet touchesthe palm. Now the cracks come, because what giveswithout taking?–Doesn’t exist. Say

you forget what is lanolin, what is raw about fleeceuncarded & unwashed. Say the silver feelof charmeuse lines your sleep. You’ve lost

what there was before pins & needles, sounda scissors makes through cloth on a hardwood floor,thick waist of the dressmaker’s dummy. Don’t tell me
any more. Without Burano lace, without cinnabarstrung on a cuff, shantung and satin and netting and swiss:no rich man, no camel, no needle’s

Nothing touches like tan velvet touches
the palm. Now the cracks come, because what gives
without taking?–Doesn’t exist. Say

you forget what is lanolin, what is raw about fleece
uncarded & unwashed. Say the silver feel
of charmeuse lines your sleep. You’ve lost

what there was before pins & needles, sound
a scissors makes through cloth on a hardwood floor,
thick waist of the dressmaker’s dummy. Don’t tell me

any more. Without Burano lace, without cinnabar
strung on a cuff, shantung and satin and netting and swiss:
no rich man, no camel, no needle’s



Thanks for your card. I like hearing from you.  What a great picture, too: there must be  a million people on that beach in Barcelona,  so many outfits and towels and umbrellas.  And your note’s wry:  “The cyber café has the cheapest postcards.”  It’s different these days, even a little eerie  that a postcard can be from a life  lived two weeks ago—now that the internet  has made the past and present one.  And Instagram and Tumblr together  are like the Big Bang:  you’re everywhere at once in Spain,  with a toothache at the pharmacy,  sipping an icy lemonade in a park  then dipping your bandana in the fountain,  finding the darkness in you  is Goya’s. But I’m so glad you wrote,  and thought to share: thank you.  Yes, I’m mostly recovered, the family’s well— though no one understands Aunt Martha any more,  which has an upside;  you know what Aunt Martha can be like.  I appreciate your thoughtfulness.  Thanks to you, I see again  the face of the clerk at the post office  in the tenderness of her hijab,  how perfectly her sigh made her lips purse  when she smiled at my awful Spanish  and counted out my change  slowly, in impeccable English,  as though I were no smarter  than her stapler. But she liked me,  I could tell: our moment was simple,  irrespective of her politics or mine.  I have been thinking a lot about the light  I glimpsed in her kind irony,  as though I could see  the unflickering living candle of her.  She liked that I was mailing myself a postcard. View Larger


Thanks for your card. I like hearing from you.
What a great picture, too: there must be
a million people on that beach in Barcelona,
so many outfits and towels and umbrellas.
And your note’s wry:
“The cyber café has the cheapest postcards.”
It’s different these days, even a little eerie
that a postcard can be from a life
lived two weeks ago—now that the internet
has made the past and present one.
And Instagram and Tumblr together
are like the Big Bang:
you’re everywhere at once in Spain,
with a toothache at the pharmacy,
sipping an icy lemonade in a park
then dipping your bandana in the fountain,
finding the darkness in you
is Goya’s. But I’m so glad you wrote,
and thought to share: thank you.
Yes, I’m mostly recovered, the family’s well—
though no one understands Aunt Martha any more,
which has an upside;
you know what Aunt Martha can be like.
I appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Thanks to you, I see again
the face of the clerk at the post office
in the tenderness of her hijab,
how perfectly her sigh made her lips purse
when she smiled at my awful Spanish
and counted out my change
slowly, in impeccable English,
as though I were no smarter
than her stapler. But she liked me,
I could tell: our moment was simple,
irrespective of her politics or mine.
I have been thinking a lot about the light
I glimpsed in her kind irony,
as though I could see
the unflickering living candle of her.
She liked that I was mailing myself a postcard.


I lay on the cream shag carpet with my brother
and argue what a kobold is, and is not. I am nine.
Behind the oblong dresser in the basement
is a white stub of chalk with a wolf spider
crouching on it. It does not know I am about to pick it up.

When I am twenty-one, I clutch a cold ten dollar bill.
The gas attendant has a gold tooth.
Says, what are you all dressed up for, missy.
I smooth the gray wool of my bridge coat.
A bell chimes and my shoulder blades flinch.
I cannot see the snowflakes melting into my cuffs.
No eyes watch my body shuffle back to the car
across the ice, no witnesses.

Years later, a lover’s shadow traipses diagonally
across the floor of the limehouse. He’s just told me
he didn’t fall in love with me. The moon in splinters
across stack piles of buildings. I open his refrigerator,
gulp milk from a glass bottle.
There is nothing left for me to do.

My brother has been dead for nine years. A kobold:
a kind of sprite with thin, ivy-colored arms.
See, he is not here to dispute this.
This is what I think when the lover asks why I am
so quiet. My body shaped like a C at the foot of his bed.
My fingers coiled in blankets. Thick and coconut white.
I miss everything. View Larger

I lay on the cream shag carpet with my brother

and argue what a kobold is, and is not. I am nine.

Behind the oblong dresser in the basement

is a white stub of chalk with a wolf spider

crouching on it. It does not know I am about to pick it up.

When I am twenty-one, I clutch a cold ten dollar bill.

The gas attendant has a gold tooth.

Says, what are you all dressed up for, missy.

I smooth the gray wool of my bridge coat.

A bell chimes and my shoulder blades flinch.

I cannot see the snowflakes melting into my cuffs.

No eyes watch my body shuffle back to the car

across the ice, no witnesses.

Years later, a lover’s shadow traipses diagonally

across the floor of the limehouse. He’s just told me

he didn’t fall in love with me. The moon in splinters

across stack piles of buildings. I open his refrigerator,

gulp milk from a glass bottle.

There is nothing left for me to do.

My brother has been dead for nine years. A kobold:

a kind of sprite with thin, ivy-colored arms.

See, he is not here to dispute this.

This is what I think when the lover asks why I am

so quiet. My body shaped like a C at the foot of his bed.

My fingers coiled in blankets. Thick and coconut white.

I miss everything.