'I keep that scrap of paper in my pocket'

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June Jordan died in 2002, an American child of Jamaican immigrants whose remarkable poetry is collected in The Essential June Jordan, a new collection published by Copper Canyon Press. This eloquent fist of a poem reminds us of what remains at stake in this longstanding and necessary conversation that America continues to have with itself.



by June Jordan

Tell them that I stood
in line
and I waited
and I waited
like everybody
But I never got
And I keep that scrap
of paper
in my pocket
just in case

American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by June Jordan, 'Democracy Poem #1' from The Essential June Jordan, (Copper Canyon Press, 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of the June M Jordan Literary Estate Trust and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by the Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.


◄ Story of poet's traumatic, near-fatal fall featured on BBC Radio 3

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