A Song for Soweto

By June Jordan 1936–2002 June Jordan
At the throat of Soweto
a devil language falls
slashing
claw syllables to shred and leave   
raw
the tongue of the young
girl
learning to sing
her own name

Where she would say   
                              water
They would teach her to cry
                                        blood
Where she would save
                              grass
They would teach her to crave
                                           crawling into the
                                                    grave
Where she would praise
                                 father
They would teach her to pray
                                          somebody please
                                          do not take him   
                                              away
Where she would kiss with her mouth
                                           my homeland
They would teach her to swallow
                                              this dust
But words live in the spirit of her face and that
sound will no longer yield to imperial erase

Where they would draw   
                               blood
She will drink
                     water
Where they would deepen
                                  the grave
She will conjure up
                            grass
Where they would take
                               father and family away
She will stand
                     under the sun/she will stay
Where they would teach her to swallow
                                                       this dust
She will kiss with her mouth
                                          my homeland
and stay
with the song of Soweto

stay
with the song of Soweto

“A Song for Soweto” Copyright 2005 June M. Jordan Literary Estate Trust; reprinted by permission; www.junejordan.com.

Source: Lyrical Campaigns: Selected Poems (1989)

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Poet June Jordan 1936–2002

Subjects History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

 June  Jordan

Biography

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 History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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