THE TIMES THEY USED TO BE by Lucille Clifton
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In short, uneven lines set down to look like verse (and, not incidentally, to move by fast for reluctant readers) Mama reminisces about 1948, the time sin broke all out in her friend Tassie Scott's body and ""how Uncle Sonny followed the nun back and forth across the Grinder Street bridge"" all summer. It's a ghost nun that Uncle Sonny follows and one night he drives his car off the bridge and is killed. Tassie, who isn't saved, has hysterics at the viewing and Mama, then twelve, panics to see ""a cross writ right on the back of Tassie's dunagarees -- in blood."" All is set to right when Mama's Mama explains to the girls about coming into your nature and fusses with Gran Scott 'bout sin talk. Lucille Clifton brings back the times they used to be -- Jim Crow in the Army, The Hit Parade and Amos and Andy on the radio, and a first glimpse of TV in the hardware store window (""We ain't going to look too long,"" Daddy whispers; ""a fellow was telling me the tubes is poison"") -- with warmth and humor far beyond Everett Anderson's range.

Pub Date: June 3rd, 1974
Page count: 48pp
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston