Poem Hunter
(18 February 1934 – 17 November 1992 / New York City)


The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
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.”

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Comments (4)

Heartfelt depiction on racial brutality and inhumanity. It should be impeded. Poetess has inscribed... But unless I learn to use the difference between poetry and rhetoric my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold. Though the poetess is no more still I thanks to her soul for posting this poem.
Racial brutality and inhumanity as institutionalized in the differences that keep minorities suppressed and the consciences of the perpetrators in power clean and guilt free is as pervasive as oxygen in the air. Or blood in the streets. The choice to express the truths spawned by those divisions is difficult, nigh impossible I should say, to describe and communicate to those committing the foul deeds without provoking further backlash. Lorde here seeks to empower poetry with that burden, that heavy obligation of giving testament without seeking to inflame or incite further violence. And she shows how that violence is not always outwardly directed but can be absorbed by the victim to become self-mutilating. The expressions, the testimonies, the accounts must be recorded. Must be made in all of their grotesque blood-stained horror, it can never swept under the rug, but the rhetoric of debate and confrontation must end. The acknowledgement must spur empathy, must engender an non-distorted way to reflect what is going on between and within each of us that we may begin to bridge the distance between. One must be willing to revisit the difficult truths over and over that the vision to see a way out becomes clearer and clearer.
Touching drop about the rampart racism going on in some parts of the world. Thanks for sharing.
Such an interesting poem written here... Thanks for sharing....