Saturday, April 28, 2007

Poems to journey by....

So much for just opening up poetry collections and finding work. I don't have all my books with me, so I exhausted those options quickly. Also, I found myself looking for women of color voices that might speak to me in the midst of some challenging creative work. I looked at Ai, and Lucille Clifton, and Lorna Dee Cervantes, and Elizabeth Alexander. I looked for something resonant in the work of men of color as well, Sherman Alexie, Countee Cullen, Michael S. Harper, and was looking for Li-Young Lee, but couldn't find the poems of his that slay me. But then I found this poem by Audre Lorde which I must have read before, but I can't remember having done so. I suppose we hear what a poem has to offer when we need to, in the poem's own time, and ours as well.


Coal
by Audre Lorde

I
Is the total black, being spoken
From the earth's inside.
There are many kinds of open.
How a diamond comes into a knot of flame
How a sound comes into a word, coloured
By who pays what for speaking.

Some words are open
Like a diamond on glass windows
Singing out within the crash of passing sun
Then there are words like stapled wagers
In a perforated book—buy and sign and tear apart—
And come whatever wills all chances
The stub remains
An ill-pulled tooth with a ragged edge.
Some words live in my throat
Breeding like adders. Others know sun
Seeking like gypsies over my tongue
To explode through my lips
Like young sparrows bursting from shell.
Some words
Bedevil me.

Love is a word another kind of open—
As a diamond comes into a knot of flame
I am black because I come from the earth's inside
Take my word for jewel in your open light.


From The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997).

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