Poem for Nana

By June Jordan 1936–2002 June Jordan
What will we do
when there is nobody left
to kill?


40,000 gallons of oil gushing into
the ocean
But I
sit on top this mountainside above
the Pacific
checking out the flowers
the California poppies orange
as I meet myself in heat
                           I’m wondering
where’s the Indians?

                           all this filmstrip territory
                           all this cowboy sagaland:
                           a single Indian
                           in sight

40,000 gallons gushing up poison
from the deepest seabeds
every hour

40,000 gallons   
experts international   
new pollutants   
swallow the unfathomable   

         no Indians

I’m staring hard around me   
past the pinks the poppies and the precipice   
that let me see the wide Pacific   
even trivial   
by virtue of its vast surrender

I am a woman searching for her savagery   
even if it’s doomed   

Where are the Indians?


Crow Nose
Little Bear
Slim Girl
Black Elk
Fox Belly

the people of the sacred trees
and rivers precious to the stars that told
old stories to the night

how do we follow after you?

snow before the firelight   
and buffalo as brothers   
to the man   

how do we follow into that?


They found her facedown   
where she would be dancing   
to the shadow drums that humble   
birds to silent   
They found her body held   
its life dispelled   
by ice   
my life burns to destroy

Anna Mae Pictou Aquash   
slain on The Trail of Broken Treaties   
bullet lodged in her brain/hands   
and fingertips dismembered

who won the only peace   
that cannot pass   
from mouth to mouth


Memory should agitate   
the pierced bone crack
of one in pushed-back horror   
pushed-back pain   
as when I call out looking for my face   
among the wounded coins   
to toss about   
or out   
the legends of Geronimo   
of Pocahontas   
now become a squat   
pedestrian cement inside the tomb   
of all my trust

as when I feel you isolate   
among the hungers of the trees
a trembling   
hidden tinder so long unsolicited   
by flame

as when I accept my sister dead   
when there should be
a fluid holiness
of spirits wrapped around the world
redeemed by women
whispering communion


I find my way by following your spine

Your heart indivisible from my real wish   
compelled the moon into the evening when   
you said, “No,
I will not let go
of your hand.”

Now I am diving for a tide to take me everywhere

the soft Pacific spoils   
a purple girdling of the globe   


Last year the South African Minister of Justice   
described Anti-Government Disturbances as   
Part of a Worldwide Trend toward the   
Breakdown of Established Political and Cultural


God knows I hope he’s right.

June Jordan, “Poem for Nana” from Directed By Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan (Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by The June M. Jordan Literary Trust. Used by permission of The June M. Jordan Literary Trust, www.junejordan.com.

Source: The Collected Poems of June Jordan (2005)

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Poet June Jordan 1936–2002

Subjects War & Conflict, Gender & Sexuality, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

 June  Jordan


One of the most widely-published and highly-acclaimed African American writers of her generation, poet, playwright and essayist June Jordan was also known for her fierce commitment to human rights and progressive political agenda. Over a career that produced twenty-seven volumes of poems, essays, libretti, and work for children, Jordan engaged the fundamental struggles of her era: over civil rights, women’s rights, and sexual . . .

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SUBJECT War & Conflict, Gender & Sexuality, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

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