and the tragic sweet

enormous sea

waits

 

still

 

 

 

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. 

 

-LH

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

 

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.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

the born day of screams

clubbed us red toward voice

 

blood!       sunrise!

symphony of winter roses!

Water!

Water!

open us!

 

 

 

 

these  little  trials and  mis

fortunes mixed all in a bla

ze  the aching hollows the

full drunk daze    and you

no longer                     here

 

 

 

the green desire of shape

stretches out

and waits

 

 

 

 

Silently symphonic and complete

the slowly toppling dream’s

wide, wide tree.

 

 

in the dream the Women had to pay

for their toilet use

 

and if too poor

they crawled beneath stall doors

 

but it wasn’t like this Everywhere

 

it was like this only off the Main Entrance

only off the Elementary Halls

 

and if a Woman found herself alone

wandering

somewhat amazed

by her forced complicity to sacrifice

 

if a Woman felt herself trapped

 

if the air smelled strange

if it had become the air of Predator and Prey

as the Dream turned Nightmare in the Dream

 

She could opt to enter—for safety’s sake—the Room

where the Red Sign read:

 

In case of rape

Women may hide

in the Men’s Room

 

Free

 

 

 

 

never

wind

would

void

the moan

 

but

tell it

not to

and

it howls

 

 

these little fevers

write themselves

through burning eyes

are blisters on the pen

past incubation

waiting

in blank horizons

mouthing

emptiness

where once were words

as signs 

 

 

 

what hour

of thought

left to calm

 

becomes

 

now god

now sword

now flights

 

in fancy

 

that only

certain angels

win

 

 

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