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By June Jordan

I


honey people murder mercy U.S.A.   
the milkland turn to monsters teach   
to kill to violate pull down destroy   
the weakly freedom growing fruit   
from being born


America


tomorrow yesterday rip rape   
exacerbate despoil disfigure   
crazy running threat the   
deadly thrall
appall belief dispel
the wildlife burn the breast   
the onward tongue
the outward hand
deform the normal rainy   
riot sunshine shelter wreck
of darkness derogate
delimit blank
explode deprive
assassinate and batten up
like bullets fatten up
the raving greed
reactivate a springtime
terrorizing


death by men by more
than you or I can


STOP


       II


They sleep who know a regulated place
or pulse or tide or changing sky
according to some universal   
stage direction obvious   
like shorewashed shells


we share an afternoon of mourning   
in between no next predictable
except for wild reversal hearse rehearsal   
bleach the blacklong lunging
ritual of fright insanity and more
deplorable abortion
more and
more


June Jordan, “In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr.” 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. Reprinted with the permission of The June M. Jordan Literary Trust, www.junejordan.com.

Source: The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (1997)

  • Mythology & Folklore
  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

June Jordan
Born to Jamaican immigrants in Harlem, New York, June Jordan later attended Barnard College and the University of Chicago. Her experiences as the only black student at a prep school and her taboo marriage to a white man fueled the sense of discrimination in her activist writing—throughout her work, she was tireless in her commitment to civil rights and political liberty. Jordan also had a distinguished academic career, teaching at Sarah Lawrence College, Yale University, and the University of California at Berkeley. In her poem “In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr.” she describes problems in American culture using a rhythmically aggressive yet free-flowing verse form. See More By This Poet

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