“here rests” by Lucille Clifton

Mercy by Lucille CliftonI have no self-control. I’m supposed to be Searching for the New but I’ve resorted to my old ways, reveling in the poems of my personal canon of poets. I like the idea of a personal canon of books, especially when a large section of the more known literary canon (read here as the Western canon), while good books, don’t speak to me nor of my experiences; that canon doesn’t echo my world.

Lucille Clifton’s poems are canon.

Today’s #NationalPoetryMonth poem is Clifton’s “here rest” from her collection titled Mercy. An exquisite poem–the certainty of a Josephine’s “when you poem this/and you will”, the blessing in the last stanza; enjoy!

(This is what once Clifton said about her sister “In a Talk with Lucille Clifton” over at The Liberator Magazine:

“Another poem is about my sister — I had a sister who was a prostitute. And she was wonderful, and look, I wasn’t the only sister who has a sister who was a prostitute, I am the one who talks about it”. The interview is worth reading).

 here rests

my sister Josephine
born july in ’29
and dead these 15 years
who carried a book
on every stroll.

when daddy was dying
she left the streets
and moved back home
to tend him.

her pimp came too
her Diamond Dick
and they would take turns

a bible aloud through the house.
when you poem this
and you will   she would say
remember the Book of Job.

happy birthday and hope
to you Josephine
one of the easts
most wanted.

may heaven be filled
with literate men
may they bed you
with respect.

– by Lucile Clifton

(Source: Poetry Foundation)




  1. It’s hard to find a balance between honouring the old favourites and seeking new potentials for the personal canon. This poem is lovely indeed.


  2. liked this. I always understood that a personal canon of writers was an essential requirement for a reader.


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