is the total black, being spoken
from the earth’s inside.
There are many kinds of open
how a diamond comes into a knot of flame
how sound comes into a words, coloured
by who pays what for speaking.

Some words are open like a diamond
on glass windows
singing out within the crash of sun
Then there are words like stapled wagers
in a perforated book—buy and sign and tear apart—
and come whatever will all chances
the stub remains
an ill-pulled tooth with a ragged edge.
Some words live in my throat
breeding like adders. Other know sun
seeking like gypsies over my tongue
to explode through my lips
like young sparrows bursting from shell.
Some words
bedevil me

Love is word, another kind of open.
As the diamond comes into a knot of flame
I am Black because I come from the earth’s inside
Now take my word for jewel in the open light.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Audre Lorde's poem Coal


  1. Mary says:

    An enjoyable poem to read. The imagery was sensational and the metaphor of coal incorporated throughout the poem was beautiful. I am just starting to get into poetry and started searching. So far, I am regretting this late curiousity of mine in poetry. This poem was a great read.

  2. Ahmed says:

    As an African Somali man I think it goes back when the white man conquested the black contenant,who ruined the people in Africa and left unendless wars between the tribes,nations for the reason of shaping artificial borders,and left empty-handed after they had enslavered the kings and queens and the wise individuals of the contenant as well,the Africans should demand compensation for what they did to us.

  3. Sally Valentine says:

    I have just finished writing a report about Audre Lorde. I remember that some of my source material said that this poem(beautiful!)is about how she feels about being black and her blackness. I usually don’t have a lot of trouble interpreting poems, but for me this seems to be more about words. Is that because she is saying that her blackness is comes from the same place as her Words do?

  4. Anisa Hajimumin says:

    Gottlieb is it? You have asked; Why is it that black people can’t write about anything except being black? In order to get the right answer without anyone offending you for your own peace, here is what you should imagine vividly. Imagine an event where you and your sister, and brother are captured. You are naked, and you are on a ship with people you do not know their language, their culture, and you have never seen them before. They tie you to a wooden bed on the ship and across from you, it is your family that are also tied up. In a night fall, you are raped by the men who captured you, and your sister as well is getting raped. Your brother is watching, but he is helpless to do anything about it. You were virgin, but you lost your virginity by rape, and those who do not appreciate your body. Your sister dies of a blood loss, after being raped numerous times by over a hundred men. You survived, but your brother had tried to defend you, and he got shot. He is not dead, but he is in a terrible pain, in risk of infection, and no one cares about him. You two are brought to a land unknown to you. You are worker death to yourself. Your brother works at the field, and you work as a housemaid. You cook food so fast that if you make a mistake your are forced to eat until you joke on it. Your brother is getting whipped everyday regardless of the good job he does in the field along with other ones like him. Your master rapes you every night since you have not allowed him to have sex with you. His wife is suspicion and in turn she punish you more. You become pregnant and you give birth to a twin boys. You try to escape and save your children from the horrible people. Before you got to any far, you are captured and your children are sold in to slavery. Because you are so good looking, another man who is no different than one you escaped from captures you in to his custody. Again you are enslaved. You do not know the whereabouts of your brother and your children. Your children grow in to adults, and flourish, have many kids, and generations later, these kids become writers, poets, teachers, and fights back, so they can have better life than their parents, and demand for their voice to be heard. These kids, are still experiencing discrimination in every direction, but things have gotten better. Now, the man who enslaved you have had so many kids later on, that themselves had flourished, and their kids generation later, one of these kids ask;
    Why is it that black people can’t write about anything except being black? because they do not know what is like to be separated from one’s family, what is like to be brought in to a world one’s value is lowered, and erased, and yet, people are still asking these questions.
    Now you know the answer to the question you are asking.
    It is human nature in case you do not know, it is what everyone is familiar with. If you want to see black people write different subject, starting from you, perhaps you ought to start yourself to recognize what had happen in the past have everything to do with what happens today. I hope the way that you will put yourself in this story, will make it easier for you to understand, because I wanted it to tell you in a way where you can really connect to the black perspective on writing subject in black.
    Anisa from Minnesota

  5. Selina says:

    why is it that white people can’t write about anything that isn’t about white people? I’m Samoan, for me, this poem is fundamentally about being black, centrally in terms of race, but pivotally, about every other living thing. You just need to be able to read beyond yourself to see it.

  6. Jon S. says:

    It wasn’t that racist or immature. It just sounds more like a question a pre-schooler would ask (along the lines of why is the sky blue? Why are people mean). It’s not even extremely offensive unless you are really going out of your way to be offended. Ignorant though, yea sure.

    Anyways I was just thinking about the opening line, it keeps running across my mind. Such a dark opening line, if kept seperate from the rest can be interpreted as gothic, but when associated with a cultural heritage gains a whole new meaning. I liked that.

  7. Jenn says:

    Gottlieb, your comment is not only blatantly ignorant and immature, it’s extremely offensive and rude. Clearly you are uneducated and know nothing about Audre Lorde, her works, or civil rights for that matter. Yes, she writes about being African American, and the hardships she’s faced, because thses experiences are an integral part of her life and we as outsiders can learn greatly from them. She also writes about being a mother, a daughter, a lover, a second-class citizen, a poet, an American, and a lesbian (I’m sure you also love that one). Please keep your idiocy to your self from now on. This forum is for comments and questions that benefit learning and growing, not racist, sweeping generalizations that bring us back to circa 1950.

  8. Gottlieb says:

    Why is it that black people can’t write about anything except being black?

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