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Forgiving My Father

The poem of forgiveness written by Lucille Clifton (1987) entitled Forgiving My Father reads like something other than forgiving. Instead, the poem focuses on the negative qualities of CliftonÆs father, a man who appears to have sorely abused both his wife and daughter through his own irresponsibility. Instead of forgiving her father, the poet seems to berate him in this work though she does come to some form of acceptance over his past abuses toward her and her mother. She informs us he is no longer her responsibility, telling us that he and her mother ôwere each otherÆs bad bargain, not mineö (Clifton, 1987, p. 322). In this manner, the poet comes to peace over painful memories of her father but she does not seem to truly forgive him.

Clifton (1987) uses a number of poetic devices in order to reinforce the theme in Forgiving My Father that her dad was a pretty awful husband and father. The poet appears to be haunted by the painful memories of her fatherÆs abuses to her and her mother. To reinforce this feeling, the poet provides her speaker with figures of speech such as simile. She informs us of her father, ôall week you have stood in my dreams / like a ghost, asking for more timeö (Clifton, 1987, p. 322).

The poet also uses figures of speech in her use of metaphor. In essence, as she recollects the painful memories of her fatherÆs neediness and lechery, she uses the image of an accountant and economic metaphors. She tells us, ôtoday is payday, payday old manö (Clifton, 1987, p. 322). The use of such images reinforces her desire to inform us that she intends to, finally, collect on what her father owes her. He owes her peace of mind now that he is finally dead. By repeating the word ôpayday,ö the author emphasizes the she is owed something and today is the day for payment, the day of her fatherÆs death.

Clifton uses financial and accounting metaphors in an extended mann


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Forgiving My Father. (2000, January 01). In Retrieved 18:01, February 20, 2017, from