Skip to main content
By Audre Lorde

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
futures
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours;
 
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
 
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
 
So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive.


"A Litany for Survival." Copyright © 1978 by Audre Lorde, from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde by Audre Lorde.  Copyright © 1997 by the Audre Lorde Estate.  Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

  • Living

Poet Bio

Audre Lorde
The impassioned poetry of Audre Lorde grew out of her keen sense of injustice—racial as well as gender—and a strong desire to break through silence and politeness to unafraid illumination. Born in New York City to West Indian parents, she turned in her later work to African sources, emphasizing its oral roots and finding a model in the matriarchies of that continent for her emergent lesbian and communal consciousness. See More By This Poet

More By This Poet

Father Son and Holy Ghost

I have not ever seen my father’s grave.

Not that his judgment eyes
have been forgotten
nor his great hands’ print
on our evening doorknobs
            one half turn each night
            and he would come
            drabbled with the world’s business   
            massive and silent
            as the whole day’s wish   
            ready to redefine
            each...

By Audre Lorde

  • Living
  • Relationships

More Poems about Living

Browse poems about Living Get a random poem