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Mercy.

Mercy by Lucille Clifton Boa Editions, Ltd., September 2004 $22, ISBN 1-929-91855-0

Lucille Clifton's prophetic Mercy reads like an oracle's diary. Clifton's precise diction, her simple yet sophisticated word choice, is a staple of her poetry. In this volume, she consistently marries sound and sense seamlessly. Clifton floats above our collective lives and above her individual life to speak with the mouth of a two-headed doctor.

The first poem of Mercy, entitled "The Gift," eloquently renders the vision of a woman who sees "the sharp / wing of things blues and greens / radiating from the body of her sister." With these words, Clifton bends us into the fear of death, the longing of survival and the momentousness of the past. She carries the voice of an oracle with confidence and authority. She tells us in "The River Between Us": "it is / about how we learn to see ourselves. / it is about geography and memory."

In the four sections of Mercy, Clifton gives us notes into her survival of cancer, tender musings on her mother's life and death, and collective and personal mournings following September 11, 2001. In "Monday Sundown 9/17/01," she writes, "I bear witness to no thing / more human than hate / I bear witness to no thing/more human than love / apples and honey / apples and honey."

The last section, entitled "The Message From the Ones," renders the terrible beauty of one who has been given the awesome responsibility of listening to the voices of spirits. With great care, she records these messages. As "the ones" tell her, "we will call you / one eye / field of feeling / singing ear / quick of hand / we will make use / of these." Clifton makes us believe art is sacred, awesome, and unforgiving.

--Reviewed by Dr. Kelly Norman Ellis Dr. Kelly Norman Ellis is associate director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Chicago State University and author of Tougaloo Blues (Third Worm Press, June 2003).
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Author:Ellis, Kelly Norman
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Words:324
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