Why Everyone Should Read "Power" by Audre Lorde

I’ve never read a more visceral poem in my life. It made me feel so many emotions at once. “Power” by Audre Lorde is the first poem to ever make me cry; like, full on ugly cry. The first time I read it, I had no idea it was about a specific incident dating back to the 1970s. It is about the unjust and unnecessary shooting of a ten-year-old black boy by a white cop. 

His name is Clifford Glover. He was shot in the back on April 28, 1973 by an undercover cop as he was running from him. This murder took place in Jamacia, Queens, and it absolutely shook the community; especially when the officer that shot him did not get charged with murder. His family was vilified and his parents were urged to keep quiet about the murder of their son.  

An audio recording of the cop who shot him came to light during the case. The officer was heard saying, “Die, you little n-word" before he shot Glover down. The fact that this did not make the jury find the officer guilty blows my mind. It showed malicious intent, undoubtedly, and Audre Lorde’s poem showcases this. 

 

The difference between poetry and rhetoric

is being ready to kill

yourself

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.”

Police brutality is such a prevalent issue today. We hear about shootings almost weekly, and it is getting to the point where many people are desensitized to it. It has become a norm and it should not be one at all. I hope in the next coming years it comes to an end, but we can only hope, rally, continue to spark change in legislation, and continue to strive to dismantle and rebuild the system in which police departments operate. If we wait for them to do it themselves, we will never see change.