Three poems by Audre Lorde, from the book The Black Unicorn (1978):
We forgot to water the plantain shoots
when our houses were full of borrowed meat
and our stomachs with the gifts of strangers
who laugh now as they pass us
because our land is barren
the farms are choked
with stunted rows of straw
and with our nightmares of juicy brown yams
that cannot fill us.
The roofs of our houses rot from last winter’s water
but our drinking pots are broken
we have used them to mourn the death of old lovers
the next rain will wash our footprints away
and our children have married beneath them.
Our skins are empty.
They have been vacated by spirits
who are angered by our reluctance
to feed them
in baskets of straw made from sleep grass
and the droppings of civets
they have been hidden away by our mothers
who are waiting for us at the river.
My skin is tightening
soon I shall shed it
like a monitor lizard
like remembered comfort
at the new moons rising
I will eat the last signs of my weakness
remove the scars of old childhood wars
and dare to enter the forest whistling
like a snake that had fed the chameleon
I shall be forever.
May I never remember reasons
for my spirit’s safety
may I never forget
the warning of my woman’s flesh
weeping at the new moon
may I never lose
which keeps me brave
may I owe nothing
that I cannot repay.
From the House of Yemanjá
My mother had two faces and a frying pot
where she cooked up her daughters
before she fixed our dinner.
My mother had two faces
and a broken pot
where she hid out a perfect daughter
who was not me
I am the sun and moon and forever hungry
for her eyes.
I bear two women upon my back
one dark and rich and hidden
in the ivory hungers of the other
pale as a witch
yet steady and familiar
brings me bread and terror
in my sleep
her breasts are huge exciting anchors
in the midnight storm.
All this has been
in my mother’s bed
time has no sense
I have no brothers
and my sisters are cruel.
Mother I need
mother I need
mother I need your blackness now
as the august earth needs rain.
the sun and moon and forever hungry
the sharpened edge
where day and night shall meet
and not be
The Black Unicorn
The black unicorn is greedy.
The black unicorn is impatient.
‘The black unicorn was mistaken
for a shadow or symbol
through a cold country
where mist painted mockeries
of my fury.
It is not on her lap where the horn rests
but deep in her moonpit
The black unicorn is restless
the black unicorn is unrelenting
the black unicorn is not
About the book
- W. W. Norton Company, 1995, 136 p. Goodreads
- First published in 1978
- My rating: 4 stars