Blog 2017

Anecdote: JUNE JORDAN and my poem HALLOWED EVE


I've been sitting on this story for 20 years. 


June Jordan has died, of course, and I miss her live voice, her activism, her vigilance as a contributor to American Letters.  20 years ago, I wrote a poem in voice; a story-poem of sorts, based on the kind of valium-pumping woman that made up a lot of nervous, white, housewives in the 1950s, combining this with the suggestion that women's oppression involves many things, not the least of which is the dismantling of the Archetypal Female where the Crone plays an important role. 


Anyway, I read this poem at the now-defunct Borders bookstore in Minneapolis for a Halloween competition for Most Ghoulish Poem.  I won 2nd place.  A few days later, June Jordan came to read at Amazon Bookstore when it was located in Loring Park.  Oh my.  If you remember this: Those were the days.  June would come.  Joan Armatrading.  Swami Rama.  Maya Angelou.  You could see them for free or very little money.  June would do a reading for cost, but then always a free reading.  That's just how generous she was.  And when she read at Amazon in 1997 to a standing-room-only crowd, we were packed in all the way to the door.  I can still hear her voice as she read, "Letter to Mrs. Virginia Thomas, Wife of Whatzhisname Lamentably Appointed to the Supreme Court, U.S.A".  A reference to Clarence Thomas, of course, this is in her book, Kissing God Goodbye.  She signed my copy, "1997.  For Leigh.  For Love", deeply listening as she penned.  I have no idea what we discussed, but I handed her a copy of my poem, "Hallowed Eve".  


About a week later, I got a letter in the mail on Radisson Hotel letterhead.  You can look at it, below.  It reads,


Dear Leigh Herrick,


Many thanks to you for sending me your poem Hallowed Eve.  It's a brilliant poem, working your imagery and metaphor in a truly persuasive, powerful way. -  Cheers! 


Sincerely yours,


June Jordan


June Jordan.  I didn't even know she was battling breast cancer.  I imagine she wouldn't have wanted that to matter.  And she didn't let it.  But that generosity of spirit is something I prefer to keep in mind.  I believe it holds us together.  It is an act of mending.  It lets us know we are here to be touched by one another in a way that lifts us to our being better together.


Yes.  June Jordan.  I surely miss her. 






Hallowed Eve

2nd Place, “Most Ghoulish Poem”, Borders Bookstore, Minneapolis, October 24, 1997


I am the Crone you left in the kitchen all these years,

reduced to making magic with mounds of

loaf-molded meat and chopped onion—


I peel potatoes near the window that reveals

dusk has not quite struck the city’s skyline.

I leave them, gored and pared, naked in the sink,

thinking of moonlight and how, disrobed,

their white bodies shine, wet with water.


This night

there is no moon—

and soon, soon

those two crows

pecking only an hour ago

will have to finish

the furry, spattered flesh

or in a flash—

near the road’s median—

their own beady eyes

will meet with

manufactured night,

and the squirrel remains 

will have company—


Lucky—or wise—

I watched the crows rise to land in trees where birds, unseen,

can see now the rising steam of boiling potatoes

and how—

like my oppression—

bubbles the mad, red sauce

I laced over the loaf-top

like a bloody veil.