1977: Poem for Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer

You used to say, “June?
Honey when you come down here you
supposed to stay with me. Where
Meanin home
against the beer the shotguns and the
point of view of whitemen don’
never see Black anybodies without
some violent itch start up.
                                       The ones who   
said, “No Nigga’s Votin in This Town . . .
lessen it be feet first to the booth”   
Then jailed you   
beat you brutal   
you blue beyond the feeling   
of the terrible

And failed to stop you.   
Only God could but He   
wouldn’t stop   
fortress from self-

Humble as a woman anywhere   
I remember finding you inside the laundromat   
in Ruleville   
                  lion spine relaxed/hell   
                  what’s the point to courage   
                  when you washin clothes?   

But that took courage

                  just to sit there/target   
                  to the killers lookin   
                  for your singin face   
                  perspirey through the rinse   
                  and spin

and later   
you stood mighty in the door on James Street   
loud callin:

                  “BULLETS OR NO BULLETS!   
                  THE FOOD IS COOKED   
                  AN’ GETTIN COLD!”

We ate
A family tremulous but fortified
by turnips/okra/handpicked
like the lilies

filled to the very living   
one solid gospel

one gospel

one full Black lily   
in a homemade field   

of love

June Jordan, “1977: Poem for Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer” 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)