Black Mother Woman

by Audre Lorde

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What does Audre Lorde mean by "heavy love" in "Black Mother Woman"?

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I think we often think of love as an emotion that lightens the soul, yet in this poem of maternal love, a different experience of love is examined.

This "heavy love" never lightened the soul of the speaker. Instead, she says that she can never recall her mother being a "gentle" figure in her life. The speaker grew up thinking that she held "little worth" because of her mother's tumultuous parenting. She recalls her mother's "anger" as the emotion that dominated their relationship, and she had to "peel away" that anger to get down to the love that lay at the "core" of her mother's heart.

Yet her mother cannot be reduced to simple deductions that might define their relationship. Though it was filled with anger, the speaker also sees her mother as "tough," a "stanchion against nightmares of weakness." And from this sense of strength, the speaker has defined herself through her mother. She also remarks on her mother's pride when strangers compliment her, noting that her "aged spirit takes a bow / jingling with pride."

"Heavy love" is an oxymoron because it captures both the "fury" and "core of love" in this mother's parenting. It is both dark and light, both a burden and a blessing.

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