Literary Magazine

Cliché This | Valencia Robin Grice

When you grow up with a view of the sun setting
over, say, Lake Michigan, are you more susceptible
to what our little star can do under the right circumstances,
are you less dismissive of sunsets on postcards
and calendars than the rest of us, do you grow moody
and out of sorts without your daily hit of miraculous?
Because when I see a great sunset, the sky losing its mind,
sticking a knife in my heart again and again,
I think of that Kenyan oil executive who gave up his millions
to adopt hundreds of street children, I think of his wife
—his sons and daughters who said goodbye to their lives, too,
I think of those kids sleeping in alley and doorways
finishing college. Yes, with the right sunset
—one of those freaky light shows worthy of its own religion—
anything’s possible, if not the man of my dreams,
a black lab with a red ball, his tail running for office.
And just think of the first people who sat where I’m sitting,
this beach I had to beg, borrow and steal to get to,
folks who must’ve thought the waves were somehow linked
to their breathing, who still believed in clouds, silver linings.
And how to watch this woo-woo of weird light
routinely denied to anyone without vacation time
and not swing wide my arms as if I’m not the only black person
out here, how to stand up and shake out my towel
as if all that star shine isn’t still rearranging my soft machinery,
crashing me, handing me back to myself like an invitation.


Valencia Robin Grice is a poet, curator, arts professional and one of the founders of GalleryDAAS in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan. She is currently completing her MFA at the University of Virginia in poetry. In 2014, she won first place in the Hocking Hills Poetry Festival. Her creative work has been supported by a number of grants and fellowships including the King-Chavez-Parks Future Faculty Fellowship, the Center for the Education of Women Margaret Towsley Fellowship, Bennington College and the Vermont College of Fine Arts.