- Ten Oxherding Pictures *
Lucille Clifton: A Special Section
here are the hands. they are still. if i ask them to rise they will rise. if i ask them to turn they will turn in an arc of perfect understanding. they have allowed me only such privilege as owed to flesh or bone. no more. they know they belong to the ox.
Searching For The Ox
they have waited my lifetime for this. something has entered the hands. they stir. the fingers come together caressing each other’s tip in a need beyond desire until the silence has released something like a name. they move away. i follow. it is the summons from the ox. [End Page 47]
Seeing The Traces
as in tracks in the buffalo snow leading to only a mirror and what do they make of that, the hands?
or baltimore, voices whispering in a room where no one sits except myself, and what do the hands make of that?
Seeing The Ox
not the flesh nor the image of the flesh, not the bone nor the clicking of the bone not the brain wearing its mask, not the mind, not its disguises, not this me, not that me, now here where no thing is defined we are coming to the ox
Catching The Ox
i whisper come and something comes. i am cautioned by the hands. [End Page 48]
Herding The Ox
the hands refuse to gather. they sit in their pockets as i command ox and enhance my name. i am lucille who masters ox. ox is the one lucille masters. hands caution me again, “what can be herded is not ox.”
Coming Home On The Ox’s Back
i mount the ox and we shamble on toward the city together. our name is inflated as we move; lucille who captured ox, ox who supports lucille. we meet a man who wears authority. he defines ox, describes him. the man claims ox. i claim the man.
The Ox Forgotten, Leaving The Man Alone
i have been arriving fifty years. parents, children, lovers have walked with me eating me like cake and i am a good baker. somewhere i was going. fifty years. hands shiver in their pockets. dearly beloved, where is ox? [End Page 49]
The Ox And The Man Both Gone Out Of Sight
man is not ox. I am not ox. no thing is ox. all things are ox.
Returning To The Origin, Back To The Source
what comes when you whisper ox is not the ox. ox begins in silence and ends in the folding of hands.
Entering The City With Bliss-Bestowing Hands
we have come to the gates of the city. the hands begin to move. i ask of them only forgiveness. they tremble as they rise.
End of Meditation
what is ox? ox is What.
Lucille Clifton, who has won many prizes for her work, is author of thirty-two books of poetry for adults and prose for young readers. She is the only poet with two books as finalist for the Pulitzer Prize during the same year. She is currently Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She has also served as Blackburn Professor of Creative Writing at Duke University and as Poet Laureate of Maryland.
* Reprinted by permission of Lucille Clifton.