“Life is very short and what we have to do must be done in the now.”Audre Lorde
A Woman Speaks
by Audre Lorde (1934 – 1992)
Moon marked and touched by sun
my magic is unwritten
but when the sea turns back
it will leave my shape behind.
I seek no favor
untouched by blood
unrelenting as the curse of love
permanent as my errors
or my pride
I do not mix
love with pity
nor hate with scorn
and if you would know me
look into the entrails of Uranus
where the restless oceans pound.
I do not dwell
within my birth nor my divinities
who am ageless and half-grown
and still seeking
witches in Dahomey
wear me inside their coiled cloths
as our mother did
I have been woman
for a long time
beware my smile
I am treacherous with old magic
and the noon’s new fury
with all your wide futures
and not white.
I can definitively say that I do not have any insight into what it is to be black in America or a black woman. But to quote her; “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
The opening two sentences of her biography on the Poetry Foundation website speak to Lorde’s mission of using poetry as a change agent and a healing force.
“A self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” Audre Lorde dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.”
In many ways, the two of us could not be more different, I am a white male, born into a middle class family, have experienced all of the benefits and priviledge that those two facts impart. And yet in this short video below, Audre Lorde articulates exactly the same thoughts that I have on artistic expression and legacy and a concept of what we do in this life and what we leave behind. And since those are the answers that hold the most weight in my world, then are we not brethren? Are we not more same than different? If we have arrived at the same answers by way of a very different roads do we not share the same view of the sunset?
Audre Lorde had to live fast and full and make an impact. She died of breast cancer at the age of 58 (1934 – 1992), the median age of me and my siblings presently, something that feels much too short for a woman with as big, and important voice as hers. If you read Lorde’s poetry you might question why I have included her on Fourteenlines, as sonnets do not appear as part of her legacy. Yet her first published poem was a sonnet, (which I have yet to find a copy, if you have one, please share.) She said of her writing:
“I learned about sonnets by reading Edna St. Vincent Millay’s love sonnets and loving them and deciding I was going to try. I learned to write love poems by reading poems I never understood but the words would get me high. I remembered all of these particular things. I started writing because I had a need inside of me to create something that was not there.”
Lorde had too many things to say to stay confined within the walls of a sonnet. Thank goodness she pushed through and found her voice and created her own world. Below is a lovely sonnet by Allison Joseph, a poet, an educator and editor. Enjoy.
Apologies To My Hair: A Black Woman’s Sonnet
by Allison Joseph (1967 –
So why’d I torture you for years, so long,
inflicting chemicals on scalp and skin,
pulling hunks of you through fiery combs
so you’d lie straight and stiff? I only thinned
your numbers out, made sure you couldn’t grow
strongby shocking you with lye, a dryer’s din
and heat to fry my follicles, then hair spray or foam—
thick mousse to make my hair obey, make it akin
to cotton candy. Now, I let you roam
wherever you want. Couldn’t leave you be
before, but now I’m awed by all I find
in you: a stray feather, leaf shed from a tree,
a strand of my husband’s hair, a texture we
don’t share. Somehow, we still end up entwined.