by Audre Lorde

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.”


Chris Ofili: No Woman, No Cry 1998

Clifford Glover was a 10-year-old black boy shot by Thomas Shea, a white on-duty, undercover policeman, at 5am on April 28, 1973 in Queens, NY.

Audre Lorde described her reaction when she learned that Shea had been acquitted:
A kind of fury rose up in me; the sky turned red. I felt so sick. I felt as if I would drive this car into a wall, into the next person I saw. So I pulled over. I took out my journal just to air some of my fury, to get it out of my fingertips. Those expressed feelings are that poem.
The celebratory words spoken by the shooter and his partner were recorded from their walkie-talkies by the dispatcher. When the precinct commander arrived, he took a look at the dead boy and asked the shooter, “Didn’t you recognize that he was a kid?” Shea’s reply is in Lorde’s poem.


After the fact, Shea “thought he had a gun,” which was never found in a massive search that followed.

Peruvian artist María María Acha-Kutscher started her “Indignadas” project in 2012, paying homage to woman activists worldwide.

Deliver Us From Evil, 1943. John Woodrow Wilson (American, 1922–2015). Fighting fascism in Europe knowing that racial injustice is the norm at home.

You Have Struck a Rock
Poster created for Women’s Day, a South African national holiday commemorating a 1956 apartheid pass laws demonstration in Pretoria. Text is based on a song that became the anthem of women’s struggle against apartheid. Printed by Medu Art Ensemble, a collective of South African exiles and activists formed in 1978 in Gaborone, Botswana, eight miles across the South African border.

1967 Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912–2004)

Dolly Li and Christine Robinson for Black Lives Matter

Audre Lorde, Poet and Activist (1934-92) Unable to identify the artist.

Featured image: Detail from Faith Ringgold‘s American People Series #20: Die 1967

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