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Friday, April 4, 2008

"Visit To A City Out Of Time"

The following is a poem by the transcendent Audre Lorde, a legally blind black lesbian married to a white woman in the 1960s. She is called the "ultimate other," reflecting her intersecting identities and sources of oppression. Her challenging and often bitter poetry survives her; she died of cancer in 1992. She often spoke of the need to voice one's demons, one's anger and not to appeal to nicety. Her caustic words were meant to provoke, to incite change, to inform the status quo that there was a rift on the horizon.

Here is her poem (see title above) about St. Louis, written at some point in the early 1970s. Notice her scathing indictment--how St. Louis is a victim, like Lorde herself, but one who has surrendered and is perhaps carried as if driftwood down a "cutting" and uncaring river. What's your take?

If St. Louis
took its rhythms
from the river
that cuts through it
the pulse of the Mississippi
has torn this city

St. Louis is
somebody's home
and not answering
shoveling snow
because spring would come
one day.

In time
people who live
by rivers
they are immortal.


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