Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
If I Could Write This in Fire

If I Could Write This in Fire

Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 104
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    If I Could Write This in Fire
    Book Description:

    Born in a Jamaica still under British rule, the acclaimed writer Michelle Cliff embraced her many identities: a light-skinned Creole, a lesbian, an immigrant in both England and the United States. In her celebrated fiction, she has probed the intersection of prejudice and oppression with striking lyricism. In this collection of nonfiction, Cliff displays the same poetic intensity, interweaving reflections on her life with a powerful critique of racism, homophobia, and social injustice._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6655-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE Journey into Speech
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. And What Would It Be Like
    (pp. 1-8)

    And what would it be like

    The terrain of my girlhood

    [with you] There is no map



    then the sweet liquidity of star apple

    custard apple


    cut with sharp tamarind

    washed down with coconut water

    ginep slippery


    where restless baby-ghosts vent their furies

    all devoured

    against trade winds

    Will I eternally return to the Trade?

    Then ––

    there’s more

    by which I mean

    hibiscus, jasmine, night-blooming and otherwise

    by which I mean

    the more ancient

    pre-Columbian pre-Contact


    Edenic underbrush

    unyielding thick as a woman’s thatch

    like the [girls’ school legend] un-drawered tennis mistress



  5. If I Could Write This in Fire, I Would Write This in Fire
    (pp. 9-32)

    We were standing under the waterfall at the top of Orange River. Our chests were just beginning to mound—slight hills on either side. In the center of each were our nipples, which were losing their sideways look and rounding into perceptible buttons of dark flesh. Too fast it seemed. We touched each other, then, quickly and almost simultaneously, raised our arms to examine the hairs growing underneath. Another sign. Mine were wispy and light-brown. My friend Zoe had dark hair curled up tight. In each little patch the riverwater caught the sun, so we glistened.

    The waterfall had come...

  6. Cross-Country: A Documentary in Ten Jump-Cuts
    (pp. 33-48)

    I head through the mountains past the Tehachapi Loop, descend into the Mojave, blasting the speed limit, past proving grounds, the landscape like every fifties horror movie I remember.Fiend without a Face. I stop in Barstow, which looks like the town inD.O.A. (noncolorized).

    I am almost alone on the road, Verdi’sOtelloon the tape deck.

    The opera now over, I scan the dial but can raise only a few AM stations. A born-again-just-say-no radio play comes on, complete with organ and resonant male voice. The passage of time, the wages of sin. I am sucked back, somewhere,...

  7. Sites of Memory
    (pp. 49-64)

    I ask the driver to take me to SFO via the coast highway. Dimity shimmers on the face of the ocean. Incandescence lighting the water. Lines of pelicans glide alongside the bluffs. My usual feelings about leaving are magnified and I am sunk in a deep sadness. Leaving, losing. I lost my island twice in childhood and have always felt out of place, something missing. Someone once said the loss of your country is the greatest loss you can suffer, save the loss of a child. The driver gets me to the airport early. He wishes me safe travel. I...

  8. Lynchburg 2003
    (pp. 65-70)

    The poet has a pygmy in her parlor. The poet with the pygmy (“forest-dweller” to you) in her parlor, on her porch, in her celebrated garden where antique roses climb Crimson Glory American Beauty Blaze. Edged by wild sassafras—one of his gifts to her. Another is wild honey, which he gathers in the woods overlooking the James. What else does he find in those woods? In the forest which is his dwelling place?

    I visit this garden in 2003 and find the tailfeather of a mockingbird, beneath a house built for a pair of purple martins.

    The African Pygmy,...

  9. The Thing behind the Trees
    (pp. 71-78)

    The thing behind the trees was a silhouette, an indentation in the earth where the body of a woman had lain.

    I will tell you how I got there.

    Some years back, 1998 I think, I was on a book tour, doing readings from a volume of short fiction. I found myself in a bookshop in a small town in western Massachusetts. The audience was small but attentive. The bookshop owner apologized for the size of the group. I replied with my usual “that’s okay”—my kind of writing has only in a few instances attracted a crowd—and asked...

  10. In My Heart, a Darkness
    (pp. 79-90)

    The most important interracial relationship I have is within myself. I move through the landscape a double agent, where I listen and learn.

    On a plane on the way to Houston, I overhear a conversation between two men. Actually, it’s more of a monologue. The speaker is American, holding forth to a European about Texas history: Sam Houston, Santa Ana, and the Battle of San Jacinto.

    Houston’s troops—he says—killed “six hundred goddamn Mexicans.” The Texans were able to accomplish this because the Mexicans were taking a siesta (caught napping), and Santa Ana was “fucking this little mulatto gal...

  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 91-91)