LETTER POEM TO THE POET LUCILLE CLIFTON
ON THE DAY WE BID FAREWELL TO PASTOR KATHLEEN IN YAKIMA
Dear Mss. Clifton:
You are one of the gifts we send with Pastor Kathleen.
Partly because of poets we’re learning to get real.
And you were born with 12 fingers and 12 toes.
They were removed, and you had to live
your life, Holy Sister Priestess, without them.
You grew into yourself, but how,
Reverend One, Ms. Clifton,
did you balance without those toes?
And now we say goodbye to Pastor Kathleen.
Pastor Kathleen came to our house
to bless Rex’s1 painting of Rosalie Tompkins
and I gave her your poems.
Ms. Tomkins, a quilter from Gould, Arkansas,
African American patchwork threader,
discovered while sewing pillow cases, listening
as God whispered in her ear
as she sewed God’s colors into squares.
God let me see it, she said. The pool is giving birth
to itself all the time. Ms. Tompkins became part
of our family that day, as did, Pastor Kathleen.
Your Big Book, the collected poems,
brand new, Ms. Clifton, open on the coffee table,
when Pastor Kathleen came by.
A quilter yourself, Lucille Clifton,
asking in a poem,
do the daughters’ daughters quilt?
do the worlds continue spinning
away from each other forever?
A few words about Pastor Kathleen.
Karen and I gave her your poems for blessing Ms. Tompkins.
Sister Kathleen can pray, Ms. Clifton.
She brings the word and asks us to receive what she sends.
She’s got the same discipline you have.
Words like seeds. We’d never say Yes
to God if it wasn’t for faith.
When she frees the pulpit from fear,
she frees the pew. Standing against
intimidation, she said, Repentance
is more important than worship.
I wrote it down on the church bulletin.
Pastor Kathleen blessed us all,
and as she leaves, she’ll be carrying
your poems, the two of you, God’s carriers.
Blessing us, we turn around by blessing others.
This is the fabric of repentance.
Pulling back the covers of formality,
I smile, remembering
B. B. King’s guitar, also named Lucille,
and my Mom, Lucille, too.
Pastor Kathleen, I can tell you, Lucille Clifton,
shares a weakness for ice cream.
You two, you go on now.
Both of you, you’re making us right.
12 March 2023
1Rex Deloney, African American artist, friend, teacher, prophet, from Little Rock, Arkansas.
The painting, Mixed Media., by Rex was commissioned for Karen Bodeen.
Post a Comment