Does Your House Have Lions?

In DOES YOUR HOUSE HAVE LIONS? Sonia Sanchez, the author of thirteen previous books, has written a book-length poem memorializing the life and death of her brother, a young black man who died of AIDS after a brief, furious exploration of the gay subculture in New York City.

Sanchez’s poem is written in four parts, “sister’s voice,” “brother’s voice,” “father’s voice,” and “family voices/ancestors’ voices.” The first three sections, and most of the fourth section, use a modified terza rima rhyme scheme; each individual unit poem has a rhyme scheme of ABABBCC. This tight structure suggests the emotional confinement her brother is rebelling against.

The first section, “sister’s voice,” presents the most detached, assured poetry, as the sister (a persona representing Sanchez herself) describes her brother’s immersion into the New York gay subculture as “a migration unlike/ the 1900s of black men and women/ coming north for jobs.” To repay his father’s desertion, he sold his body as a prostitute, auctioning off “his legs. eyes./ heart. in rooms of specific pain.” By contrast, the second section, “brother’s voice,” is written with the emotional directness of pain. He begins by saying, “father. i despise you for abandoning me,” and tells of trying to make a new life on the New York streets, “a country of men/ where dollars pump their veins.” “Father’s voice” tells poignantly of a...

(The entire section is 401 words.)