2 Poems Inspired by Audre Lorde by Melinda Goodman

February 26, 2014

By Melinda Goodman


Audre Lorde copyright: Dagmar Schultz

Audre Lorde
copyright: Dagmar Schultz



In her poem entitled, “Power”,

Audre Lorde proclaims,

“The difference between poetry

and rhetoric is being ready to kill yourself

instead of your children”*


And sometimes it comes down to that

You never know what you might do under extreme pressure

You might get crushed or you might turn into a diamond

or something in between…


a lump of coal…

The point is

you hope you will rise to the occasion

and not push the baby’s stroller in front of a bus

to keep yourself from being struck by a truck

The point is

you never know how you might react

That’s why you have to practice

That’s why it helps to know what others have done

before you


Poetry can keep things fresh in your mind

It gives you something to remember when you’re locked up

and can hear only the screams

of doors slamming shut all around you

Poetry says,

“Be still.



Poetry is awareness

like the fog coming in on little cat’s feet

it slips under the gate and through the bars

It cloaks you in your own fur

long enough for you to find in that hour

your higher self

hidden inside the lining

Poetry reminds you that the revolution happens in real time

that your laptop is not a crystal ball

Poetry takes your eyes off the screen…

You see the sky, the birds, the mountains

instead of pop up ads you can skip

in one, two, three, four,

interminable seconds—moments

that distract you from what you originally came here for

Poetry doesn’t want you to rush out and buy

another packet of gummy bears

Poetry encourages you to stay put

to not run away from your hunger

your anger, your sorrow

Poetry is poetry

that’s why it’s called “poetry” and not



Poetry knows when to stop

even when you want to keep squeezing and digging and causing

all kinds of infection

Poetry knows we can poison our own blood stream

or we can let our body heal itself


Poetry wants to live


Poetry is a suicide note you write

to buy time to change your mind


Poetry talks you out of it

Poetry talks you down off the high ledge

Poetry is sharper than that razor and better

than that hit, that high, that makes you forget

because it makes you forgive


for the times you thought you were saving yourself

when all you were doing was saving the Self

that would push your own child in front of a bus

or use your own lover as a human shield


Poetry makes connections

even while it’s cutting the cord

because poetry


when it’s time

to breathe

on your own.




For the Survivors 


When we’re children we don’t think we’re being raped

We think we’re being chosen. That’s how they get us.

Yes, it’s strange, uncomfortable, a little stinky, embarrassing

but so is loneliness. So is invisibility.


That throaty husky whisper that says

how beautiful we are. How special. How

can we not be putty in their clammy hands?


And we are chosen. They spotted us. We are the gullible ones.

We believe in Santa Claus or Malcolm X. Whoever is

the Jesus of our day.

We believe if we are just nice enough…just fearless enough…

Whether we’re being called good

or being called revolutionary…

we think now we have our ticket to the big dance,

we finally found a home,

can take our rightful seat at the welcome table.


Willing, eager even,

to be counted, to receive extras

Extra birthday presents are nice.

Telephone calls are nice. It’s nice

to have an adult ask you how you’re feeling. It’s great

to have a grown up who is always on your side,

in your corner.

It’s comforting to be stroked and petted and held and fed. After school
you have a place to go.

No more Saturdays and Sundays with nothing to do.

Now there’s plenty. There’s somebody

who cares where you are at all times.

You now have some one

you can always turn to.

As long as you turn to them.

As long as you are willing

to let them


turning you





copyright: Melinda Goodman

copyright: Melinda Goodman

Melinda Susan Goodman has been teaching at Hunter College in New York City since 1987. In 1988 she published a collection of poems, Middle Sister, MSG Press, Paterson, NJ. She was a founding member of the Audre Lorde Women’s Poetry Center and was a former member of the editorial collective of Conditions, the world’s first Lesbian literary journal. Her poems have appeared in LGBTI journals and anthologies and she was an early recipient of an Astraea Award for Lesbian poets. Goodman holds an MA from NYU and an MFA from Columbia University where she received a fellowship citation. In 2012 she was awarded a fiction fellowship from the New York Foundation on the Arts.


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4 Responses to 2 Poems Inspired by Audre Lorde by Melinda Goodman

  1. jayne pierce on February 28, 2014 at 8:33 am

    It is rewarding to read Melinda Goodman’s poems. Having studied with her in Audre’s classes at Hunter in the 80s, her words are as stunning now as they were then.

  2. […] Lorde works in mysterious and magical ways.” When  poet and friend Melinda Goodman who was also both Dr. Joseph’s and Sister Lorde’s former […]

  3. […] 2 Poems Inspired by Audre Lorde By Melinda Goodman […]

  4. […] My writing is meant to be spoken out loud. My presence and the presence of the audience creates a sort of vibration that must be experienced live in order to achieve the fullest potential of the charge that comes from making a full connection. My teacher, Audre Lorde, understood and utilized her shamanic power as a poet, teacher, and spiritual conduit. Her attention and concentration were so acute that one could literally feel oneself being lifted off the ground by her incantations. I met Audre Lorde in the 1970’s when she came to visit a Social Science class taught by Dr. Gloria I. Joseph at Hampshire College. At a time when issues of racism and homophobia were rarely addressed on college campuses, Dr. Joseph’s courses pinpointed the foundations of these and other forms of institutionalized oppression.  Audre Lorde contributed to our explorations by highlighting the need for poetry as a means for dismantling “the master’s house”. In other words, she encouraged students to delve into their feelings, both conscious and unconscious, in order conjure the necessary information that could lead us out of mental slavery. As a western trained social scientist, Dr. Gloria I. Joseph was unusual in her ability to grasp the full implications of Audre’s message. But Dr. Joseph’s West Indian heritage and her involvement with the American Black Power Movements of the 60’s and 70’s gave her an appreciation of the liberating potential of Lorde’s art form, drawn as it was from the sacred depth of a traditionally Afro centric female sensibility. […]

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