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raccoon prayer

oh Master Of All Who Take And Wash
And Eat     lift me away at the end into evening
forever    into sanctified crumples of paper
and peelings curled over my hand
i have scavenged as i must
among the hairless
now welcome this bandit into the kingdom
just as you made him
barefoot and faithful and clean


Lucille Clifton, 1936 – 2010; widely-loved American poet, writer, educator. Her work is informed, but not circumscribed, by her African American heritage. Recipient of many awards, including the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the National Book Award for Poetry, and, posthumously, the Robert Frost Medal for lifetime achievement (from the Poetry Society of America). She was Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1979 to 1985.

I found this poem in The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965 – 2010, a beautifully presented and comprehensive volume published in 2012.
Edited by Kevin Young and Michael S. Glaser, with a concluding essay by Young, titled: won’t you celebrate with me: the poetry of Lucille Clifton; and a foreword by Toni Morrison. This book was recently named winner of the 2013 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a national award presented to published writers of African descent by the national community of Black writers in the United States. The award recognizes the highest quality writing in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry. “racoon prayer” originally appeared in the collection Voices (2008).