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Recorded on March 31, 1992, at an Academy of American Poets reading held at the French Institute, Alliance française, in New York City.

About this poet

Born in New York City on July 9, 1936, June Jordan attended Barnard College.

Her numerous books of poetry include We’re On: A June Jordan Reader (Alice James Books, 2017), Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2007), Kissing God Goodbye: Poems, 1991-1997 (Anchor Books, 1997), Naming Our Destiny: New and Selected Poems (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1989), Living Room: New Poems (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1985), Passion: New Poems, 1977–1980 (Beacon Press, 1980), and Things That I Do in the Dark: Selected Poetry (Random House, 1977).

Jordan also authored children’s books, plays, the memoir Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood (Basic/Civitas Books, 2000), and the novel His Own Where (Crowell, 1971), which was nominated for the National Book Award. Her collections of political essays include Affirmative Acts: Political Essays (Anchor Books, 1998) and On Call: Political Essays (South End Press, 1985).

Of her career, Toni Morrison writes, "I am talking about a span of forty years of tireless activism coupled with and fueled by flawless art."

Jordan received a Rockefeller Foundation grant, the National Association of Black Journalists Award, and fellowships from the Massachusetts Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts.

She taught at the University of California, Berkeley, where she founded Poetry for the People. Jordan died of breast cancer on June 14, 2002, in Berkeley, California.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

We're On: A June Jordan Reader (Alice James Books, 2017)
Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2007)
Kissing God Goodbye: Poems, 1991-1997 (Anchor Books, 1997)
Haruko/Love Poetry: New and Selected Love Poems (Virago Press, 1993)
Naming Our Destiny: New and Selected Poems (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1989)
Living Room: New Poems (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1985)
Passion: New Poems, 1977–1980 (Beacon Press, 1980)
Things That I Do in the Dark: Selected Poetry (Random House, 1977)
Some Changes (Dutton, 1971)
Who Look at Me (Crowell, 1969)

Prose

Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essays of June Jordan (Basic/Civitas Books, 2002)
Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood (Basic/Civitas Books, 2000)
Affirmative Acts: Political Essays (Anchor Books, 1998)
Poetry for the People: A Revolutionary Blueprint for the Revolution (Routledge, 1995)
Technical Difficulties: African-American Notes on the State of the Union (Pantheon Books, 1992)
On Call: Political Essays (South End Press, 1985)
Civil Wars (Beacon Press, 1981)
His Own Where (Crowell, 1971)

The Bombing of Baghdad

1
began and did not terminate for 42 days
and 42 nights relentless minute after minute
more than 110,000 times
we bombed Iraq we bombed Baghdad
we bombed Basra/we bombed military
installations we bombed the National Museum
we bombed schools we bombed air raid
shelters we bombed water we bombed
electricity we bombed hospitals we
bombed streets we bombed highways
we bombed everything that moved/we
bombed everything that did not move we
bombed Baghdad
a city of 5.5 million human beings
we bombed radio towers we bombed
telephone poles we bombed mosques
we bombed runways we bombed tanks
we bombed trucks we bombed cars we bombed bridges
we bombed the darkness we bombed
the sunlight we bombed them and we
bombed them and we cluster bombed the citizens
of Iraq and we sulfur bombed the citizens of Iraq
and we napalm bombed the citizens of Iraq and we 
complemented these bombings/these “sorties” with
Tomahawk cruise missiles which we shot
repeatedly by the thousands upon thousands
into Iraq
(you understand an Iraqi Scud missile
is quote militarily insignificant unquote and we
do not mess around with insignificant)
so we used cruise missiles repeatedly 
we fired them into Iraq
And I am not pleased
I am not very pleased
None of this fits into my notion of “things going very well”

2
The bombing of Baghdad
did not obliterate the distance or the time
between my body and the breath
of my beloved

3
This was Custer’s Next-To-Last Stand
I hear Crazy Horse singing as he dies
I dedicate myself to learn that song
I hear that music in the moaning of the Arab world

4
Custer got accustomed to just doing his job
Pushing westward into glory
Making promises
Searching for the savages/their fragile
temporary settlements
for raising children/dancing down the rain/and praying
for the mercy of a herd of buffalo
Custer/he pursued these savages
He attacked at dawn 
He murdered the men/murdered the boys
He captured the women and converted
them (I’m sure)
to his religion
Oh, how gently did he bid his darling fiancée
farewell!
How sweet the gaze her eyes bestowed upon her warrior!
Loaded with guns and gunpowder he embraced
the guts and gore of manifest white destiny
He pushed westward
to annihilate the savages
(“Attack at dawn!”)
and seize their territories
      seize their women
      seize their natural wealth

5
And I am cheering for the arrows
and the braves

6
And all who believed some must die
they were already dead
And all who believe only they possess
human being and therefore human rights
they no longer stood among the possibly humane
And all who believed that retaliation/revenge/defense
derive from God-given prerogatives of white men
And all who believed that waging war is anything
        besides terrorist activity in the first
        place and in the last
And all who believed that F-15s/F-16s/ “Apache”
        helicopters/
B-52 bombers/smart bombs/dumb bombs/napalm/artillery/
battleships/nuclear warheads amount to anything other
than terrorist tools of a terrorist undertaking
And all who believed that holocaust means something
        that only happens to white people
And all who believed that Desert Storm
        signified anything besides the delivery of an American
        holocaust against the peoples of the Middle East
All who believed these things
they were already dead
They no longer stood among the possibly humane

And this is for Crazy Horse singing as he dies
because I live inside his grave
And this is for the victims of the bombing of Baghdad
because the enemy traveled from my house
       to blast your homeland
       into pieces of children
       and pieces of sand

And in the aftermath of carnage
perpetrated in my name
how should I dare to offer you my hand
how shall I negotiate the implications
       of my shame?

My heart cannot confront
this death without relief
My soul will not control
this leaking of my grief

And this is for Crazy Horse singing as he dies
And here is my song of the living
who must sing against the dying
sing to join the living
with the dead

Copyright © 2017 by the June M. Jordan Literary Estate. Used with the permission of the June M. Jordan Literary Estate, www.junejordan.com.

Copyright © 2017 by the June M. Jordan Literary Estate. Used with the permission of the June M. Jordan Literary Estate, www.junejordan.com.

June Jordan

June Jordan

The author of several books of poetry and political essays,  June Jordan was born in New York City in 1936.

by this poet

poem
well I wanted to braid my hair
bathe and bedeck my
self so fine
so fully aforethought for
your pleasure
see:
I wanted to travel and read
and runaround fantastic
into war and peace:
I wanted to
surf
dive
fly
climb
conquer
and be conquered
THEN
I wanted to pickup the phone
and find you asking me
if I might
poem

You say, “Close your eye to the butterfly!”
I say, “Don’t blink!”

poem

when I or else when you
and I or we
deliberate I lose I
cannot choose if you if
we then near or where
unless I stand as loser
of that losing possibility
that something that I have
or always want more than much
more at
least to have as less and
yes directed by