Lucille CliftonAccording to Writer’s Almanac, Lucille Clifton’s family descended from slaves; her father was a steelworker and her mother worked in a laundry. Her mother, though uneducated, was also a poet. She was once offered the chance to publish her poems, but her husband refused to let her. Here is Lucille Clifton and her poem called “fury.”





for mama

remember this.

she is standing by

the furnace.

the coals

glisten like rubies.

her hand is crying.

her hand is clutching

a sheaf of papers.


she gives them up.

they burn

jewels into jewels.

her eyes are animals.

each hank of her hair

is a serpent’s obedient


she will never recover.

remember. there is nothing

you will not bear

for this woman’s sake.


Lucille Clifton has written a powerful poem. WE ALL, in one way or another–literally or metaphorically–ignore or fail to protect our creative lives. We are all “obedient” wives to something: the fear of what people will think, the compulsion to take care of everyone else before we take care of ourselves. Or perhaps we are “obedient” to an old way of life or an old way of thinking. What we don’t realize is the huge price it costs us.

As a former psychotherapist who mainly worked with women, I saw this same dynamic play out again and again in a thousand different ways.

WE MUST–women and men alike–claim and protect whatever creative talents we have, or we run the risk of not recovering.

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