June Jordan and Ruth Yarrow: Poems to Rebuild Kosovo


Read more of June Jordan's and Ruth Yarrow's writings (click on their individual names to learn more and for purchase)

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August 1999. Think of it as the Third World War: bitter explosion of Balkan feud, ethnic cleansing as political stance, international interloping and global realignment played out on human face (Russian troops holding down the Pristina airport, China negotiating with the US). Only, it was in your backyard, your parents’ face, your children’s graves. The war in Kosovo was lived out in daily life.

June Jordan (1936 - 2002) was poet, activist, political essayist, teacher at UC Berkeley and founder of Poetry for the People. Her remarkable life was documented on KQED’s “Speaking Freely ,” where you can read and listen to several of her poems). She died in 2002 of breast cancer.

Ruth Yarrow taught ecology in colleges and environmental centers for several dozen years, and continues to work for peace and justice as a volunteer. When their two adventurous kids fledged, she and her husband Mike moved from the northeastern United States to the northwest where they revel in mountain backpacking. Ruth has had hundreds of haiku in the major journals and four books of haiku published. She has given readings and workshops, judged contests, and served as editor and regional coordinator of the Haiku Society of America's Northwest region. She finds that writing haiku helps her be aware of the richness of life.

Source: http://poetry.about.com/library/weekly/aa081799.htm and https://sites.google.com/site/haikunorthwest/poems-by-members/ruth-yarrow



surgical strike --
a nurse in her own
Belgrade zoo
long before the bomber
the animals’ crescendo

after the rape
her husband’s eyes
     a void

storks cruise
across the spring moon

I send a fax
protesting the bombing
pages come out hot

Ruth Yarrow

And three poems from June Jordan...

APRIL 7, 1999

Nothing is more cruel
than the soldiers who command
the widow
to be grateful
that she’s still alive

April 9, 1999
      (for Ethelbert)

In Brooklyn when the flowering
forsythia escaped the concrete patterns
of tight winter days
I didn’t think about long
or F-117s in contrast
to a lover or an army
on the ground
up close
and personal as washing out a shirt
by hand
the soapsuds and the fingers and the cloth
an ordinary ritual
to interdict the devils of 2,000 lb. bombs
dropped from more than 25,000 feet above
the children
scrambling from the schoolyard
suddenly aflame

until you called from Washington
to say
"Oh, let me be
that shirt!"

APRIL 10, 1999

The enemies proliferate
by air
by land
they bomb the cities
they burn the earth
they force the families into miles and miles of violent exile

30 or 40 or 80,000 refugees
just before this
or who knows where
they disappear

the woman cannot find her brother
the man cannot recall the point of all
     the papers somebody took
     away from him
the rains fall to purify the river
the darkness does not slow the trembling
     message of the tanks

Hundreds of houses on fire and still
  the enemies do not seek and find
     the enemies

only the ones without water
only the ones without bread
only the ones without guns

There is international TV
There is no news

The enemies proliferate
The homeless multiply
And I
I watch I wait

I am already far
and away
too late

too late

Copyright © 1999, June Jordan
Posted by permission of the poet
All rights reserved
The Progressive, June 1999)