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  • Nicole (Johnson) Williams

28. due all women who refuse to wait in vain

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

The text that I am using for this Artistic Experience is the poem, Sequelae, written by Audre Lorde and published in her 1978 book, The Black Unicorn. This annotation is for the first part of the poem, which is not included in the audio for the final choreographed piece I will be exploring but lays the foundation for the complete story. Although this part of the text will not be included, the words speak clearly what is unspoken within the movement narrative.

  1. Sequelae

  2. Sequelae – (noun) a condition which is the consequence of a previous disease or injury.

  3. Because a burning sword notches both of my doorposts

  4. Notch – (verb) to score or archive (something)

  5. Doorpost – (noun) one of two upright pieces of wood at the sides of a door

  6. I found a reference to the Jewish mezuzah when I searched for references related to “notches on doorposts.” The piece is called Scars on the Door Frame written by Christian Herrmann. He described a tradition that lived during the Holocaust in which Jewish families would notch the right doorpost. Within the notch would be a biblical commandment handwritten on a piece of parchment, housed in a small container (a mezuzah). The author writes that, “It is mounted on the door frame, reminds Jews of their religious duties, and blesses the house.” The author goes on to describe the absence of Jewish people and the notches that would commemorate them in current-day (2013) Lviv, where his exploration took place. Although written at two separate times, this author’s uncovering of the stories of a genocide suppressed and all but forgotten parallels Lorde’s depiction of an all too familiar story of being Black and being woman told in a chorus of different voices, generation after generation. As for the message placed inside the notches, it reminds me of the “duties/commandments/standards oppressed people are often made to uphold through tradition.

  7. Because I am standing between my burned hands in the ashprint of two different houses

  8. Ashprint is not a definable word by dictionary definition.

  9. In the previous line, Lorde speaks of a burning sword which has notched both doorposts. This indicates that the burning sword caused the ashprint and that the author is the one who has notched the doorposts or upheld the standard. It is also interesting that both doorposts are notched. Having read the poem in its entirety, this gives me the feeling that these doorposts belong to two different houses; the two different houses being her maternal connection and her paternal connection (perhaps influenced by both mother and father’s pain/expectation and perpetuated by self).

  10. Midnight finds weave a filigree of disorder

  11. Finds – a discovery of something valuable, typically something of archaeological interest.

  12. There’s a darkness to something found at midnight

  13. Filigree – (noun) delicate and intricate ornamentation (usually in gold or silver or other fine twisted wire)

  14. A filigree is often used when decorating a gate, which is found outside of a house; a callback to the two different houses

  15. I figure in the dreams of people who do not even know me

  16. Figure – (verb) think, consider, or expect to be the case

  17. The night was a blister of stars

  18. Blistering stars ( When a star explodes in a binary system, the debris from the explosion violently strikes the companion star. Usually, there’s not enough energy to damage the whole star, but it heats up the star’s surface instead. The heat then causes the star to swell up, like having a huge burn blister on your skin.

  19. My eyes are glued like fury to the keyholes of yesterday

  20. Fury – (noun) wild or violent anger; a surge of violent anger or other feeling; violence or energy displayed in natural phenomena or in someone’s actions

  21. Fury – (Greek mythology) a spirit of punishment, often represented as one of three goddesses who executed the curses pronounced upon criminals, tortured the guilty with stings of conscience, and inflicted famines and pestilences. The Furies were identified at an early date with the Eumenides.

  22. A common theme in this work is the idea of violence and rage; sometimes outward and sometimes deep and underlying. At this moment, the author is speaking of her own violence when she describes that way in which she peaks in (keyholes) on the memories of a time passed.

  23. Solitary as a hunting cheetah

  24. According to Dell Cheetah Center, “Cheetahs stalk as close as possible to their prey and initiate the high-speed chase once they are close enough.” It is also mentioned that “Cheetahs never return to a kill and only eat fresh meat, they also never scavenge.” This indicates to me that cheetahs are strategic and swift, which might be unassuming to some, but is accurate and deadly in the end

  25. At play with legends call disaster

  26. Imagining the solitary, hunting cheetah at play with her prey

  27. Legends – (noun) a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated

  28. A callback to the notch in the doorpost (or the mezuzah that may lay within)

  29. Call – (verb) refer to, consider, or describe (someone or something) as being

  30. Disaster – (noun) a sudden event, such as an accident or a natural catastrophe, that causes great damage or loss of life

  31. Due all women who refuse to wait in vain

  32. Due – (adjective) expected at or planned for at a certain time

  33. Due – (noun) a person’s right; what is owed to someone; an obligatory payment; a fee

  34. Due – (adverb) (with reference to a point of the compass) exactly; directly 

(The numbers are off in the outline because I went back to add one line and couldn’t figure out the formatting. Sorry!)

Below is a link to a conversation between Audre Lorde and Judy Simmons during a late-night show on WBAI in New York, 1979. The entire conversation is one to listen to in its entirety if not once, but many times over. For this reflection, however, I have linked the video to begin at the reading and discussion of this particular poem. 

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