Friday, March 5, 2021



absence in the palms of my hands

                                                                    for audre lorde

i will eat the last signs of my weakness

remove the scars of childhood wars

i made you this promise as

humble as mary washing the feet of her savior

it was an unsteady may afternoon &

we were standing in the doorway of the home you had adopted

you let me there with

your head raised and still dreadlocked walking

toward the beginnings of your death

i didn't say i'd never take the chemo you told me

& though i know we must have spoken after this day

these are the last words i ever remember hearing from



i learned to face the complexity of living watching you

face the complexity of dying

                never do it on your knees never do it with your back turned

                never do it with your eyes


i learned dialectics watching you at war

a defiant soldier for peace against the serenade of violence

inside & outside

your body                      a mighty oak refusing

to be scorched in silence

these days

in the face of necessity battles i know i must

never forget the warnings of my woman's flesh

nor lose the terror that keeps me brave*

but this morning your memory informs my tears

thick & isolated

unable to rest

it has been two years now but

death does not know time and

your absence aches in the palms of my hands

but i am also angry

i curse the disease because cancer is not natural

nor the act of an unforgiving God

crossing the world we once shared

i see

poison passed off as food   water   air   as

good earth upon which we may live or clear out

the next rainforest to make room for a grinning clown

& hamburger stand

the   whole   world

is being nourished on big macs & radon

staring westward at hollywood for daily salvation

& we do not understand our 5 year olds

when their eyes melt

& they do not scream only


in the solitude of my writing i place

your poetry around me like a makeshift altar

& pray my generation of poet-historians

will abandon any urge toward the mirage of relevance created 'cause


in the urgent hour of now

we need stories beyond shock value whose

focus is transformation

or at least the prayer that

we will write no words we will not want spoken out of

the mouths of our children

that we will owe nothing we cannot repay.*

*from "Solstice" by Audre Lorde (in Black Unicorn)


absence in the palms of my hands

asha bandele

Harlem River Press, 1996