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Joy and Hope and All That: A Tribute to Lucille Clifton

for girls like Josephine

After “here rests” by Lucille Clifton


born in the heat
with bodies curled,
learning to love broken men,
whose innocence won’t allow
you curse without an apology.

when daddy can’t smooth your hair down,
who does it for you,
was independence not taught
around the kitchen table?

didn’t mama used to sing gospel
up until daddy didn’t speak anymore
and mama praised an empty bed in church

a prayer in one hand, freedom in the other.
when he called you beautiful with his eyes
you learned broken
over pink smothered chicken at the Waffle House.

hope you put freedom in the sole of your shoes
toast to you for running
out of reasons
to find the good in empty houses.

may you find heaven on a dance floor
with well-done chicken in your hand
trade innocence and prayer
for all the sins of missing daddy.

Aaliyah C. Daniels

Aaliyah C. Daniels

Aaliyah C. Daniels is a teen writer from Hunts Point, in the Bronx. She is part of the 2019 NYC slam team and, for two years, has been New York Youth Poet Laureate ...