On Moral Leadership as a Political Dilemma – June Jordan


(audio from pennsound)
(Text from Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan


Watergate, 1973

I don’t know why but
I cannot tell a lie

I chopped down the cherry tree
I did
I did that
I chopped down the cherry tree

and to tell you the truth
that was only in the morning

which left a whole day and part
of an evening (until suppertime)
to continue doing what I like to do
about cherry trees

which is
to chop them down

then pick the cherries
and roll them into a cherry-pie circle
and then
stomp the cherries
stomp them
jumping up and down

hard and heavy
jumping up to stomp them
so the flesh leaks and the juice
runs loose
and then I get to pick at the pits
or else I pick up the cherry pits
(depending on my mood)
and then
I fill my mouth completely full
of cherry pits
and run over to the river
the Potomac
where I spit
the cherry pits
47 to 65 cherry pits spit
into the Potomac
at one spit

and to tell you the truth some more
if I ever see a cherry tree
standing around no matter where
and here let me please be perfectly clear
no matter where
I see a cherry tree
standing around

even if it belongs to a middle-American of
moderate means with a two-car family
that is falling apart in a respectable
falling apart
mind-your-manners manner

even then
or even if you happen to be
corporate rich or
unspeakably poor of famous
or fashionably thin or comfortably fat
or even as peculiar as misguided as
a Democrat

or even a Democrat

even then
if you have a cherry tree
and I see it
I will chop that cherry tree down
stomp the cherries
fill my mount complete with the pits to
spit them into the Potomac
and I don’t know why
it is
that I cannot tell a lie
but that’s the truth


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