The Weekly Verse: “Power” by Audre Lorde

girls girls girls graphic The Weekly Verse: One poem per week.

Power

by Audre Lorde

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.”

Do you need a minute? I did too. I’m still taking moments to just sit with this poem and marvel at all the things it does to me. It makes me flinch and cringe and feel angry and sad and afraid. The imagery and careful word choice blow me away – a dead black child in a white desert, a woman lining her womb with cement “to create a graveyard for our children,” the crudeness of the plug and socket metaphor, the use of the phrase “police forcing.” It’s all so carefully constructed for maximum devastation for the reader, and it  succeeds.

This poem was published in 1978. Think about that, and then think about the current state of race relations and police brutality in the United States. This is art and activism combined in one of the most powerful ways I’ve ever witnessed.

Meghan

Meghan has noticed that many of her favorite things in life start with the letter B - books, blogging, bacon, bitching, and (craft) beer. She lives in Chicago where she indulges regularly in all of these things. Kurt Vonnegut and David Mitchell are her literary baes. Sometimes she tweets random thoughts as @socomeslove.

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