Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Poem for South African Women

Commemoration of the 40,000 women and children who, August 9, 1956, presented themselves in bodily protest against the “dompass” in the capital of apartheid. Presented at The United Nations, August 9, 1978.

Our own shadows disappear as the feet of thousands
by the tens of thousands pound the fallow land
into new dust that
rising like a marvelous pollen will be
fertile
even as the first woman whispering
imagination to the trees around her made
for righteous fruit
from such deliberate defense of life
as no other still
will claim inferior to any other safety
in the world

The whispers too they
intimate to the inmost ear of every spirit
now aroused they
carousing in ferocious affirmation
of all peaceable and loving amplitude
sound a certainly unbounded heat
from a baptismal smoke where yes
there will be fire

And the babies cease alarm as mothers
raising arms
and heart high as the stars so far unseen
nevertheless hurl into the universe
a moving force
irreversible as light years
traveling to the open
eye

And who will join this standing up
and the ones who stood without sweet company
will sing and sing
back into the mountains and
if necessary
even under the sea

we are the ones we have been waiting for

Credit


From Directed by Desire: The Complete Poems of June Jordan (Copper Canyon Press, 2005). Copyright © 2005, 2017 by the June Jordan Literary Estate. Used with the permission of the June Jordan Literary Estate, www.junejordan.com.

Author


June Jordan

The author of several books of poetry, June Jordan was born in 1936, in New York City

Date Published: 2017-10-19

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/poem-south-african-women