The rich earth shall speak
soft tears & we who know
earth, between us, we shall
drink both that year & this.
We shall sit here, softlyAudre Lorde, from “If you come softly”
Beneath two different years
And the rich earth between us
Shall drink our tears.
the action of time is wiser than the vat of knowing
that saddened him
And that is ok
Lao Tsu thought
the inaction of rhyme is timelier than what-not
he was not sad
And that too is ok
the Lordessess gave us time to sort it out
but there is little time
And that is not ok
left copped out coopted by right1
let our children play out the folly of our plight
mindful eyes shut to keep out the light
shall we just play peekaboo with night?
The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
instead of your children.
Audre Lorde, Power
1. “Right coopted Left copped out” – Coined by my friend Faraz Hussain while discussing how adept the mainstream is in appropriating all progressive talk and defanging it of radical potential.
When rain falls with conviction
I ask the woman,
“would you like to buy the sky?”
“No need as dying is near impossible.”
makes sense as death is a triangle
two sides in want of the third –
When there is no rain or when
when conviction fails, the
woman is silent, sky is up
For sale & death has no neighbor knocking
on its door asking, “is there a
song we can borrow for the night?”
Within each one of us there is some piece of humanness that knows we are not being served by the machine which orchestrates crisis after crisis and is grinding all our futures into dust…In what way do I contribute to the subjugation of any part of those who I define as my people? Insight must illuminate the particulars of our lives: who labors to make the bread we waste, or the energy it takes to make nuclear poisons which will not biodegrade for one thousand years; or who goes blind assembling the microtransistors in our inexpensive calculators?
– Audre Lorde, “Learning from the 60s”.
It took an hour
to make song another hour
for stone the river
& stone are conjugate verbs
to make the verdict of song
“I have always had the sense of Armageddon and it was much stronger in those days, the sense of living on the edge of chaos. Not just personally, but on the world level. That we were dying, that we were killing our world — that sense had always been with me. That whatever I was doing, whatever we were doing that was creative and right, functioned to hold us from going over the edge. That this was the most we could do while we constructed some saner future.” – Audre Lorde recalling when she had heard of Martin Luther King’s killing.
“I am deliberate
An act of will that
weaves magic –
– Quoted words from “New Year’s Day” by Audre Lorde
“Green essence pooled again in my eyes, which paint the grass, which will later bloom in the memories of animals.”
I as earth
I as animal
woke as essence of green –
– Quoted words by Alejandra Pizarnik
Poet as difference
wrungtooth, it keeps us in guess
deference to differ
earthsweat, as blade wishes blood
rain – the differed
skyrust, as air as parch as wet as pain
that deep inner place where we have been taught to fear all difference—to kill it or ignore it
When I speak of the Tao, I know not
but vaguely I
speak of Lorde the fruit of my wis-
dom is twenty
inches too far from soul, twenty
years too large, twenty
something, perhaps more maybe
When I speak of the Tao, I speak of Lorde
for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are — until the poem — nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt
— Audre Lorde, “Poetry is not a luxury”
Here are poetic tangents – mine with Lorde’s and Rukeyser’s – to a podcast I heard last night: a tribute paid to Eqbal Ahmad by his friend, Edward Said. Said contrasted his personal ‘filiation’ with his ‘affiliation’ in relation to Ahmad and the world of idea(l)s, Ahmad’s unceasing commitment to the creative versus mere politics, his fiery exhortations rooted in peace, and the sacrifice one has to make in pursuit of love (justice by any other name).
To engage what is true with what is most
It's the moor to an unhandsome
it's the moor to loveless anchor blanched in
out of tune
It’s compensation for kin with what is most
"I say across the waves of the air
today once more
I will try to be
non-violent one more day this morning, waking the world
away in the
To once more blur imagination with what is most
"Disrobed need shrieks through the nearby
a brown sloe-eyed
boy picks blotches
from his face, eyes my purse shivering
white dust a holy
fire in his blood"2
1. from “Waking This Morning” – Muriel Rukeyser
2. from “The Politics of Addiction” – Audre Lorde
I have taken the liberty of changing the line breaks in the two excerpts above.
I have long been entertaining the possibility of somehow tying together the three areas: poems, social justice and data visualization. It has been tricky, but here is my first attempt.
The 10 poems by Audre Lorde and Muriel Rukeyser (wellsprings of poetic sensibility) are intended to provide context for the accompanying data visualization on gender (using data from genderstats.un.org). This is intended in a tangential and somewhat disruptive way. Data for indicators in the development world is mostly presented in a cut and dried way. Add to that their lumping together in neat categories and the bobbing up and down of pretty graphs and charts, and you end up euphemizing the underlying reality. The technical brilliance on display then serves as spectacle. That of course does not take away from the fact that the underlying numbers have been painstakingly collected and systematically organized. And these numbers are pretty much the only authoritative ones that map the reality that social activists use to change the world.
Hence the poems as corrective.