Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, ZA KI TAN KE PARLAY LOT, by AUDRE LORDE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

ZA KI TAN KE PARLAY LOT, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

Audre Lorde's "Za Ki Tan Ke Parlay Lot," written in 1980, grapples with the imperative need to bear witness to tragedy and violence, to become the mouths that tell, the ears that hear. The phrase "Za Ki Tan Ke Parlay Lot" is a clarion call, an invocation compelling us to listen and relay what we have heard. The poem is intensely raw, wrenching the reader from metaphorical abstraction and insisting on the corporeal realities of blood and violence.

In the line "there is no metaphor for blood," Lorde aims to detach us from the poetic layers that can sometimes obscure the starkness of suffering. She insists that the horrors she speaks of are not symbols of a greater malaise but the malaise itself-real, palpable, and devastating. Furthermore, the line "flowing from children" underlines the actual victims of this violence, making the message even more gut-wrenching. It's a direct confrontation with the reader, as if saying, look here, see this, tell others.

The poem implicates us all in its collective "your," stressing that "these are your deaths, your judgment." It places the moral imperative squarely on the audience. This is no abstract situation, no remote tragedy-it's "not some other cities' trial." The lines "your locks are no protection" and "hate chips at your front doors like flint" implore the reader to recognize their own vulnerability, that the violence and tragedy could very well breach the boundaries of their personal lives.

The imagery of "flames creep beneath" the doors and children "resting in question" is harrowing, indicating that the tragedy has already infiltrated domestic spaces. Lorde makes it clear that complacency is not an option; silence and inaction make us complicit. In such a milieu, "your tomorrows flicker," offering a future that is uncertain, "a face without eyes, without future."

Lorde extends this ominous scenario to the broader community, referring to those "whose visions lie dead in the alleys, dreams bagged like old leaves." These lines paint a bleak picture of discarded hopes and neutered ambitions. But it also speaks to a society that is collectively responsible, drowning in the "children's blood."

In the historical context of the late 20th century, a period during which social and racial tensions were palpable in America and elsewhere, the poem can be seen as a response to an era of violence, discrimination, and growing disillusionment. However, its message is timeless, universal-capturing the essence of collective responsibility in the face of injustice.

"Za Ki Tan Ke Parlay Lot" ends as it began, with the titular phrase, an urgent reminder that resounds in the reader's conscience: "oh you who hear, tell the others." In its insistence on speaking the unspeakable, on confronting harsh truths head-on, the poem serves as both an indictment and a rallying cry. It forces us to question our own roles in the perpetuation of suffering and tasks us with the moral responsibility of witness and narrator. It's an unflinching reminder that poetry can be an act of bearing witness, a clarion call for collective responsibility, and a critical evaluation of societal complacency.

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