won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Lucille Clifton, “won’t you celebrate with me” from Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 1991 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., boaeditions.org.

Let y equal any number of fathers.
Let x equal the numberless planets.
Let y minus x equal long nights of fog
and let x plus y equal hydra & incubus.

If y is > x, why do all my convictions gape?
If x is > y, does “father” just mean nightcap?
When x ÷ y, we set sail on a windjammer.
When y ÷ x, watch for the banshee, the jinn.

Or let x be replaced by a midsummer night
and y by—well, you can never replace y but
by morning y will lollygag near half-moons:
Odysseus sailing to Ithaca, mildew as it rots.

And a b is no mere theory of relativity: it is
helter-skelter materfamilias, Ma Barker, and
Rebekkah, the mother who deceived. Not
Sarah who couldn’t conceive nor the Mother

of all of Nature: the black tern, the kittiwake;
plants ornamental, baroque; the cumulous,
the nebulosus; and yet, mother-of-pearl and
ice-cold, tiger’s-eye and monkey in the middle.

Let’s say a b is a % of all the love in the world
or synonymous with do you love me now that
I can dance? Let’s agree that a is the salsa or
paso doble and b is always always the beguine.

Copyright © 2021 by Lynne Thompson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 1, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.