Magazine article The Progressive

A Letter to June Jordan

Magazine article The Progressive

A Letter to June Jordan

Article excerpt

Dear June,

Who can believe you have been gone from us for ten years? It seems impossible.

When I close my eyes I see you standing in the middle of your students at the University of California-Berkeley reading/reciting your most recent powerful, outraged poems against whatever tragic error our government has abetted or made. I see the passion of your clear intent to send your words, like slashes of pure light, to illuminate the dark corridors of collusion and complicity that made war and crimes against humanity so banal that the average American, rushing to school or to a job, felt too befuddled to investigate. I marveled at your fiery courage, your precise delineation of our many and ongoing tragedies. What a poet you were, and are!

And so it was fitting that Split This Rock Poetry Festival honored you in Washington, D.C., in March. It affirmed what you always knew: that poetry can be sharper than a sword in cutting through lies and illusions of omnipotence, of power, of, above all, delusion masquerading as enlightenment in high and menacing places.

We miss you, June.

When you wrote in your poem about South African women, "We are the ones we have been waiting for," it rang in many of us like a huge awakening bell. And you should see now, in every street, in every town, in every village on Earth, the growing awareness of this reality. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Who else? It isn't only the visible Occupy Movement that has reinvigorated and enchanted us, but also the awakening we can sense in the sleepiest segments of our own communities and families. We see our children, our grandchildren, rising beautifully to the challenge of being present to their own lives. To the plight of our suffering planet. To all that must be changed, speedily, and radically.

Oh, June. You were a poet always on the job, knowing your voice must be raised no matter the cost to you. …

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