Power by Audre Lorde

Original taken from Poetry Foundation.

The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
yourself
instead of your children.

I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
is the only liquid for miles
and my stomach
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.

A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens
stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood
and a voice said “Die you little motherfucker” and
there are tapes to prove it. At his trial
this policeman said in his own defense
“I didn’t notice the size nor nothing else
only the color”. And
there are tapes to prove that, too.

Today that 37 year old white man
with 13 years of police forcing
was set free
by eleven white men who said they were satisfied
justice had been done
and one Black Woman who said
“They convinced me” meaning
they had dragged her 4’10” black Woman’s frame
over the hot coals
of four centuries of white male approval
until she let go
the first real power she ever had
and lined her own womb with cement
to make a graveyard for our children.

I have not been able to touch the destruction
within me.
But unless I learn to use
the difference between poetry and rhetoric
my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold
or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire
and one day I will take my teenaged plug
and connect it to the nearest socket
raping an 85 year old white woman
who is somebody’s mother
and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed
a greek chorus will be singing in 3/4 time
“Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are.”

 


 

I thought I would share some Audre Lorde in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Any of my own words, I feel, would be inadequate. Here is a link to a compilation of ways to help.

 

Walking Fast

The schoolmates, having grown up from the past,
Streets ahead vast, they hold hands, walking fast.

Old white man in a straw hat at boarding
With his last pot of honey, walking fast.

Swells of round hips can push a path through crowds;
If asked, she’d say the key is walking fast.

Cities are crawling over the thick jungle
Earthen crust never masters walking fast.

Peeling from glass, the café sign flutters
At half-mast; still the queue is walking fast.

This is where your ‘can’ becomes a ‘must’ –
How dastardly that time was born walking fast!

Fern says: never fish for hope in airspace,
The lines you cast are walking, walking fast.

Form

The form of free verse
is always your own
pickled words removed
from jars of salad;
Shaking a new spice
from old cabinets,
manufacturing
each day, month or year.
And if you could hand-make
measuring cups,
invent new units?
Then that is just what
Your form could be.

Cotton Candy Machine

The cotton candy machine is out of control.
Sugar, cycloning from the epicentre
And now we are breathing bright dust.

The worst is this: I can’t see where you are.
You are dark scribbles on the pink cloud
A crayon drawing – disintegrating.

But maybe I pick this apart with thin sticks,
Twirling together a thread that leads
From Point A to Point B,
To your hand along the way.

Three Tanka

I
Through cellular cells
Litanies of undone tunes
Are alluring me;
Flies carousel to honey
As I propel these wind-thoughts.

II
Rummaging through pearls
Sitting in mother’s treasure
The calcium bone hair
Has to have come from somewhere—
Fingertips wedded to sin.

III
Though the hue changes
On the stained-glass sea,
Grey dissolving red,
Windows still screech when shattered;
Blood will still dry if spattered.

Schoolyard

A lumbering predator
Cornered by prey
In a dark room
Lined with wire.

Stone feet pick between
Spindle-sharded grass;
The appetite dulls, I say:
I’m not hungry.

Hysterical rabbits
Spin flustered clouds
Of babbling acids
In moisture-muddled air.

Pinwheels of red
Darting in darkness;
Their wild whizzing fears
Frighten them dead –

They are still screaming
Long after I leave.

Weather

Soft pale gold sunrise
Falls in spindles across seas
That are filtering
Silent through my closed fingers
Casting droplets on the grass.

Skyward, grey wisps brew
Rolling waves of white thunder
You don’t see the rain
Looming there with frigid stare
And anxious crows departing.

IV – Metamorphosizing

My hands are stained
The colour of butterfly peas
And butterfly wings
Iridescence on onyx
And the blue sapphires like eyes
Peering from between pale creases.

Did you think otherwise? I’m sorry
Apologies make people uncomfortable
Like the irises of a painting
Palms open containing evidence
Of all the insects I’ve crushed
Between these unwrinkled fingers.

The colour of death is blotched
Bruises grape-like growing on the exoskeleton
But you live in a world of fenced-off forests:
Your hands stain
The colour of my dead butterflies
Fingers pinching, constricting things to dust –

You know what I mean? No
Other person can understand what either of us
Hides inside our fists
But I understand
That my hands are stained
That you have stained them
For good.

Bottle Caps

Bottle caps may be holding out on us,
Puckered, scrunched up, plastic stoppers, they are
Do you ever think bottle caps repress?

Bottle caps may be holding out on us,
Screwing so snugly against a glass rim
Stubbornly hiding away the contents.

Puckered, scrunched up, plastic stoppers, they are
Keeping us from the taste of the juice
The feeling, the smell – only colour gets through.

Do you ever think bottle caps repress?
For what is colour? the lie of the juice
That could be sugar water dyed orange.