By Means of PowerBoth Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde, in their respective poems entitled Power, convey the idea that ones identity and sense of worth is defined by what they are willing to give up. This message is energized by the emotion the authors evoke through their ability to communicate a sense of experience.
It is this experience as mothers and highly intelligent feminists that allow us to feel the unconditional caring towards humanity they are encouraging in their poems.In the opening lines of Lordes Power, “The difference between poetry and rhetoric/is being/ready to kill/yourself/instead of your children”(1-5), she immediately stresses the importance of putting your child before yourself. This is a metaphor for putting the needs of what is truly important before the needs of oneself.
It is not only stated simply and bluntly, but the way the lines are broken up accent the idea. “Ready to kill”(3) is on its own line, while “yourself”(4) is on the next. This is the theme that is running throughout the entire poem. In the next section of Lordes poem she describes a dreamlike situation. This is where her son has been shot, probably in the face. Although “blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders/is the only liquid for miles”(9-10), “my mouth splits into dry lips”(12). With the death of her boy she is willing to sacrifice her own need of any quenching of her lips.
She is “thirsting for the wetness of his blood”(14) but it is more important to resist the temptation, “trying to make power out of hatred and destruction”(18).The power displayed in the third section of Lordes Power is that of hatred. A policeman has “shot down a 10-year-old in Queens”(21). This he justifies by saying “I didn’t notice the size or nothing else/only the color”(26-27). This officer has taken the power entrusted into him by the citizens and used it for his own good. Or not even his own good but what he might consider beneficial to his people. This directly opposes what Lorde was saying at the beginning of the poem. He is not ready to kill himself instead of his children.
And although he has actually killed a boy here that is not the only thing he has killed. He killed the idea of allowing someone else to have interests above what he might agree with. That same officer was acquitted for his crimes in the following section of the poem.
The people who had the power to bring him to justice abused that power and by setting him free. The “11 white men who said they were satisfied/justice had been done”(31-32) also used their power in numbers to corrupt the power of the one women who probably had the decency and power to know right from wrong. “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 of the first real power she ever had”(35-37). She had the opportunity to make a difference and she let her power go to the wayside.
In looking at Adrienne Rich’s Power one senses the same theme as in that of Lorde’s Power. This is the tenet that one must put the good of a greater or another before that of oneself. This is what gives people true power and is evident in Rich’s depiction of Marie Curie.
Marie Curie was born in Poland and would become famous for her research into radioactivity. She died as a result of this research and the over-exposure to the element she was working with. In living with the knowledge that she was suffering from ailments due to her work Curie she became a more empowered and powerful person. The idea that “she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness”(7) yet continued on in the search proved that “her wounds came from the same source as her power”(17).
The wounds were her power. Curie knew that she had suffered and did not back down or fall to the wayside, she was up for the challenge. “The element/she had purified”(9) was important for the greater good of mankind, and Curie put that before herself. The convictions that the people these two authors herald in their works are some of the noblest.
There is no way to understand the power these women feel in standing for what they believe in. The belief that doing for others is more important than doing for yourself and that in turn you will receive a sense of power that only comes in not asking for it is greater than any sense of power taken by force or fraud.