Poem To Take Back The Night

June 10, 2006 at 4:11 am 2 comments

June Jordan

Listen (to Hatshepsut read)

What about moonlight
What about watching for the moon above
the tops of trees and standing
still enough to hear the raucous crickets
chittering invisible among the soon lit stones
trick pinpoints of positions even poise
sustained in solitary loss

What about moonlight
What about moonlight

What about watching for the moon
through windows low enough to let the screams
and curses of the street the gunshots
and the drunken driver screeching tires
and the boombox big beat and the tinkle
bell ice cream truck
inside

What about moonlight
What about
moonlight

What about watching for the moon
behind the locked doors and bolted shut bedrooms
and the blind side of venetian blinds and
cowering under the kitchen table and struggling
from the car and wrestling head
down when the surprise when the
stranger when the surprise when the
coach when the surprise when the
teacher when the surprise when the
priest when the surprise when the
doctor when the surprise when the
family when the surprise when the
lover when the surprise when the
friend when the surprise
lacerates your throat
constricted into no
no more sound

who will whisper
what about moonlight
what about moonlight

What about watching for the moon
so far from where you tremble
where you bleed where you sob
out loud for help for mercy for
a thunderbolt of shame and
retribution where you plead
with God with devils with
the creatures in-between
to push the power key
and set you free
from filth and blasphemy
from everything you never wanted to feel
or see

to set you free

so you could brush your teeth
and comb your hair and maybe
throw on a jacket
or maybe not

you running
curious and so excited and
running and running into the
night
asking only asking

What about moonlight
What about moonlight

 

Hatshepsut writes,

This poem kills me. It’s by June Jordan, one of my favorite activist poets. I went to a tribute to her last year, where Adrienne Rich, Cornelius Eady and other incredible poet-friends of Jordan read her poetry and talked about her inspiring life. Jordan was raped twice. The first time by a friend. Since then she has done much activist work against rape and written extensively about methods of resistance to any kind of violence. I think the poem is about the fact that this throat-lacerating, silencing surprise can be from a friend, a priest, a teacher a coach. The poem talks about wanting to be obliterated by “a thunderbolt of shame and retribution”- it is rent by the screamed plea to be set free from filth and everything she never wanted to feel or see.
But for all the unspeakable pain she has felt and seen, what is heart-stoppingly breathtaking about Jordan’s strength, sensitivity and voice is that her experience has not stripped her of her faith in beauty, in life, or in the crucial importance of seeking out moonlight. She insistently asks the question (what about moonlight), and uses the moon to illuminate the disturbing truths she refuses to hide. But it’s more than just a tool of exposé for her. In dappled dream-like lunar incandescence there is hope for beauty and a life beyond pain.
She’s been described as the most personal of political poets and this poem makes it easy to see why.

[blackmamba]

Entry filed under: Black Mamba, English, Hatshepsut, June Jordan. Tags: .

Intisaab Holy Sonnet 6

2 Comments Add your own

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