Poem for April 4: In Memoriam, Martin Luther King, Jr. — by June Jordan

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[On April 4, 1968 the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.  For April 4, 2019, I choose to read/reprint this poem, by the widely acclaimed, politically engaged poet, June Jordan (1936-2002).  The Poetry Foundation web site biographical page for June Jordan quotes an interview with the poet:  

In an interview with Alternative Radio before her death, Jordan was asked about the role of the poet in society. Jordan replied: “The role of the poet, beginning with my own childhood experience, is to deserve the trust of people who know that what you do is work with words.” She continued: “Always to be as honest as possible and to be as careful about the trust invested in you as you possibly can. Then the task of a poet of color, a black poet, as a people hated and despised, is to rally the spirit of your folks…I have to get myself together and figure out an angle, a perspective, that is an offering, that other folks can use to pick themselves up, to rally and to continue or, even better, to jump higher, to reach more extensively in solidarity with even more varieties of people to accomplish something. I feel that it’s a spirit task.”

Martin Luther King’s enduring gift to his political descendants is his “work with words.”  LR]

 

In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr.

I
honey people murder mercy U.S.A.
the milkland turn to monsters teach
to kill to violate pull down destroy
the weakly freedom growing fruit
from being born
America
tomorrow yesterday rip rape
exacerbate despoil disfigure
crazy running threat the
deadly thrall
appall belief dispel
the wildlife burn the breast
the onward tongue
the outward hand

deform the normal rainy

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June Jordan

riot sunshine shelter wreck
of darkness derogate
delimit blank
explode deprive
assassinate and batten up
like bullets fatten up
the raving greed
reactivate a springtime
terrorizing
death by men by more
than you or I can
STOP
       II
They sleep who know a regulated place
or pulse or tide or changing sky
according to some universal
stage direction obvious
like shorewashed shells
we share an afternoon of mourning
in between no next predictable
except for wild reversal hearse rehearsal
bleach the blacklong lunging
ritual of fright insanity and more
deplorable abortion
more and
more

 

[The poet can be heard reading her poem here.  Her poem “Apologies to All The People Of Lebanon” can be read here (Aja Monet performs the poem here].

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