Thursday, January 17, 2013

Moved To Talk (Poem)

Moved To Talk

      after Audre Lorde

Do not carry your voice
to your grave. Your silence

will not protect us, will not
ease the dreams we have

of the worst that happens
when words fail to get through.

Do not let your tongue be
held, cut out, left to wither

from disuse for truth. Allow it
to cross the man-made lines

in Iran, in Syria, in Afghanistan
that keep you still, not noticed.

Share it because your life cannot
begin until you say the word

first. Say it in faith that it will pass
through a valley and be heard

on a mountain top in Haiti. Practice
its honored syllables of disruption

in Cairo's biggest square, risk it
to call back the disappeared

in Argentina, to cradle in loving
arms the children trafficked

in the streets of our own downtowns.

When you dress to go to dinner
next week at the People's House,

don't worry how you'll look
when you tip the glass to toast.

Stand and be moved from silence.
Name the unnamed your self.

Offer a vision of a woman unafraid,
heading to the front of the bus,

marching in Washington, New York,
and San Francisco, sending candles

on a wave to Japan. Let them know you
won't take another catcall in India,

have vowed to undo the laws
of these United States that fail

to leave us children unsilenced.
Dare to paint your nails lavender;

show your face not plain. Dare to
say you have a say in what happens

to your body, to every body —
of your mother, your daughter,

your sisters everywhere. Raise
and fold your hands in the gesture

of namaste. Inspect your bruises,
address the clarity of your pain,

but never let them cover your mouth.

© 2013 Maureen E. Doallas

This poem is inspired by my recent re-reading of Audre Lorde's "The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action", a speech presented December 28, 1977, to the Modern Language Association's Lesbian and Literature Panel, Chicago, Illinois. (See Lesbian Herstory Archives Digital Collection for a sound recording.) The speech was first published in Sinister Wisdom 6 (1978) and The Cancer Journals (© 1980, 1997 by Audre Lorde and Aunt Lute Books). "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action" also is available in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde (Crossing Press, 1984, 2007) on GoogleBooks.


Kathleen said...

Thanks for a poem that speaks up!

Jenne' R. Andrews said...

This is extraordinary-- powerful, inspired, a torrent of meaning and beauty. Bravissima! xj

Britton Minor said...

Not only moving, but inspirational. I am reminded to speak complacency and apathy into smithereens.

the sad red earth said...

Very powerful, Maureen. And in that opening line, it's a call to anyone, and anyone who would write, too.