1977: Poem for Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer

by June Jordan

You used to say, “June?
Honey when you come down here you
supposed to stay with me. Where
Meanin home
against the beer the shotguns and the
point of view of whitemen don’
never see Black anybodies without
some violent itch start up.

                                       The ones who
said, “No Nigga’s Votin in This Town . . .
lessen it be feet first to the booth”
Then jailed you
beat you brutal
you blue beyond the feeling
of the terrible
And failed to stop you.
Only God could but He
wouldn’t stop
fortress from self-
Humble as a woman anywhere
I remember finding you inside the laundromat
in Ruleville
                  lion spine relaxed/hell
                  what’s the point to courage
                  when you washin clothes?
But that took courage
                  just to sit there/target
                  to the killers lookin
                  for your singin face
                  perspirey through the rinse
                  and spin
and later
you stood mighty in the door on James Street
loud callin:
                  “BULLETS OR NO BULLETS!
                  THE FOOD IS COOKED
                  AN’ GETTIN COLD!”
We ate
A family tremulous but fortified
by turnips/okra/handpicked
like the lilies
filled to the very living
one solid gospel
one gospel
one full Black lily
in a homemade field
of love

via 1977: Poem for Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer by June Jordan | The Poetry Foundation