June Jordan: Poetry for Palestine

I am saying that the ultimate connection cannot be the enemy. The ultimate connection must be the need that we find between us … I must make the connection real between these strangers and me everywhere before those other clouds unify this ragged bunch of us, too late.

June Jordan, Report from the Bahamas, 1982


Apologies to All the People in Lebanon

Dedicated to the 600,000 Palestinian men, women, and children who lived in Lebanon from 1948-1983.

I didn’t know and nobody told me and what
could I do or say, anyway?

They said you shot the London Ambassador
and when that wasn’t true
they said so
what
They said you shelled their northern villages
and when U.N. forces reported that was not true
because your side of the cease-fire was holding
since more than a year before
they said so
what
They said they wanted simply to carve
a 25 mile buffer zone and then
they ravaged your
water supplies your electricity your
hospitals your schools your highways and byways all
the way north to Beirut because they said this
was their quest for peace
They blew up your homes and demolished the grocery
stores and blocked the Red Cross and took away doctors
to jail and they cluster-bombed girls and boys
whose bodies
swelled purple and black into twice the original size
and tore the buttocks from a four month old baby
and then
they said this was brilliant
military accomplishment and this was done
they said in the name of self-defense they said
that is the noblest concept
of mankind isn’t that obvious?
They said something about never again and then
they made close to one million human beings homeless
in less than three weeks and they killed or maimed
40,000 of your men and your women and your children

But I didn’t know and nobody told me and what
could I do or say, anyway?

They said they were victims. They said you were
Arabs.
They called your apartments and gardens guerrilla
strongholds.
They called the screaming devastation
that they created the rubble.
Then they told you to leave, didn’t they?

Didn’t you read the leaflets that they dropped
from their hotshot fighter jets?
They told you to go.
One hundred and thirty-five thousand
Palestinians in Beirut and why
didn’t you take the hint?
Go!
There was the Mediterranean: You
could walk into the water and stay
there.
What was the problem?

I didn’t know and nobody told me and what
could I do or say, anyway?

Yes, I did know it was the money I earned as a poet that
paid
for the bombs and the planes and the tanks
that they used to massacre your family

But I am not an evil person
The people of my country aren’t so bad

You can expect but so much
from those of us who have to pay taxes and watch
American TV

You see my point;

I’m sorry.
I really am sorry.


Moving towards Home

“Where is Abu Fadi,” she wailed.
“Who will bring me my loved one?”
—The New York Times, 9/20/1982

I do not wish to speak about the bulldozer and the
red dirt
not quite covering all of the arms and legs
Nor do I wish to speak about the nightlong screams
that reached
the observation posts where soldiers lounged about
Nor do I wish to speak about the woman who shoved
her baby
into the stranger’s hands before she was led away
Nor do I wish to speak about the father whose sons
were shot
through the head while they slit his own throat before
the eyes
of his wife
Nor do I wish to speak about the army that lit continuous
flares into the darkness so that the others could see
the backs of their victims lined against the wall
Nor do I wish to speak about the piled up bodies and
the stench
that will not float
Nor do I wish to speak about the nurse again and
again raped
before they murdered her on the hospital floor
Nor do I wish to speak about the rattling bullets that
did not
halt on that keening trajectory
Nor do I wish to speak about the pounding on the
doors and
the breaking of windows and the hauling of families into
the world of the dead
I do not wish to speak about the bulldozer and the
red dirt
not quite covering all of the arms and legs
because I do not wish to speak about unspeakable events
that must follow from those who dare
“to purify” a people
those who dare
“to exterminate” a people
those who dare
to describe human beings as “beasts with two legs”
those who dare
“to mop up”
“to tighten the noose”
“to step up the military pressure”
“to ring around” civilian streets with tanks
those who dare
to close the universities
to abolish the press
to kill the elected representatives
of the people who refuse to be purified
those are the ones from whom we must redeem
the words of our beginning

because I need to speak about home
I need to speak about living room
where the land is not bullied and beaten to
a tombstone
I need to speak about living room
where the talk will take place in my language
I need to speak about living room
where my children will grow without horror
I need to speak about living room where the men
of my family between the ages of six and sixty-five
are not
marched into a roundup that leads to the grave
I need to talk about living room
where I can sit without grief without wailing aloud
for my loved ones
where I must not ask where is Abu Fadi
because he will be there beside me
I need to talk about living room
because I need to talk about home

I was born a Black woman
and now
I am become a Palestinian
against the relentless laughter of evil
there is less and less living room
and where are my loved ones?

It is time to make our way home.


To Sing a Song of Palestine

For Shula Koenig (Israeli Peace Activist)

All the natural wonders that grow there
(Nor tree nor river nor a great plains lifting grain
nor grass nor rooted fruit and
vegetables) forever curse the land
with widely dreaming schemes
of transformation
military magic
thick accomplishments of blood

I sing of Israel and Palestine:
The world as neither yours nor mine:
How many different men will fit
Themselves how fast
into that place?

A woman’s body as the universal
shelter to the demon or the sweet as paradigm
of home that starts and ends with face
to face surrendering to the need
that each of us can feed or take
away
amazing as the space created
by the mothers of our time
– can we behold ourselves
like that
the ribs the breathing muscles and the fat
of everything desire requires
for its rational abatement?

I write beside the rainy sky
tonight an unexpected American
cease fire to the burning day
that worked like war across my
empty throat before I thought to try this way
to say I think we can: I think we can.



More of June Jordan’s rich poetry can be found online at Poetry Foundation (along with a literary biography) and poets.org. Therese Saliba article for The Feminist Wire, “June Jordan’s Songs of Palestine and Lebanon”, captures Jordan’s understanding and commitment to Palestinian freedom from Israeli settler-colonialism, and the latter’s parallels to and intersections with other forms of oppression.

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3 Responses to June Jordan: Poetry for Palestine

  1. Pingback: Palestine and Poetry – Buddhism and Society

  2. Pingback: White supremacy within and beyond the USA – parallels among Black, Native, & Palestinian peoples’ experiences – Mélise Edwards

  3. Julius Gavroche says:

    Thank you very much for sharing this with us.

    In solidarity,

    The Autonomies Collective

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