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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.

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