Poem for Nana

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)