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Hope Jordan

Song For My Grandchildren

After Joy Harjo

I’m rethinking everything. The disposable medley

of drywall, upholstery, spice packets piling into canyons.

The language of the toad who lives in the stones

is lost to us now. The deadfall drifts in the river currents, uprooted

by erosion along the banks.

I’m working with the language of the oppressors. I am the oppressors, I guess.

I’m working with cookie cutters and glamour shots.

The body is a brief song, the body subsides.

My lullaby to you is whispered in the cushioned rocking chair,

sung to you so you think it’s a dream. It is a dream, of the old country.

This lullaby is an elegy for America. It sings of the Passenger Pigeon,

the Carolina Parakeet, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. The bison and the wolf.

Fast-food restaurants are diametrically opposed to this song. So are the stores

full of home goods. What you need to do is fill a jar with earth.

Be vigilant, because you will pleasure yourself with acquisition.

When you understand the lie you will understand the artillery.

Invasive species, automatic rifles in bedrooms.

Hold my words as if they are warnings

on a medicine bottle. Don’t believe in dumpsters, false eyelashes, pre-made cocktails.

My beautiful ones, know that this song is imperfect.

The song I leave to you is tattooed on the wrists of corpses.

Runes of interpretation, higher education.

In my dreams the trees know all of our names.

When you are ready to bear my great-grandchildren, my song will be lost to you.

Navigate then by way of your mother’s steamed rice, your father’s jalapenos.

The consolations of a running stream are the rhythms behind the punk

melodies of highways.

Look for the traces of heroines, left behind in second-growth forests.

They threw us those lifelines.

At the solstice, you will hear someone play a Bob Dylan cover on guitar.

You’ll hear the howls of coyotes. They hold the secret codes.

We have always betrayed each other. Forgive yourselves.

Sing, bloom, sing.

Rural White American

From the tired feet of women who waited

for hours, waited tables, took catering shifts on weekends

Worked under the table past midnight

while their babies slept alongside ghosts

From Black Creek Road and the dead cow

belly-up, swollen in the chemical ditch after heavy rain

From the baseball with rotted seams knocked

into the outfield by a kid named Brian

Whose dad was a trucker, who skateboarded and listened to KISS

alone in the basement after school

From Saturday night fog coming in off the lake

Floyd’s The Final Cut on cassette in Gary’s Mustang

Menthol cigarettes and your dad’s Wild Turkey

passed front seat to back

From a haze of lake effect snow, lit cigarettes

and the way hard liquor makes sun burn

Deep in the dark places in the belly,

dangerous boat rides with men I didn’t know

Ode to Wendy O.

Wendy Orlean Williams (May 28, 1949 – April 6, 1998) was an American singer, songwriter and actress. She was the lead singer of the punk rock band Plasmatics. Her stage theatrics included near-nudity, blowing up equipment, and chain-sawing guitars.

Who played clarinet in the high school band,

escaped the lake effect snow of Ontario,

crafted bikinis from macramé,

lit out at 16 for Colorado.

Who took acrylic yarn from Woolworth’s,

transformed it into loops and nooses,

fabric stalactites, bridges and rigging,

those twisted fishnets had their uses.

Who found the grubby magazine ad

on the New York City bus station floor

for Captain Kink’s Sex Fantasy Theater

and learned to wield a live chainsaw.

Who stripped off her clothes to put on sex shows,

who covered her nipples with electrical tape,

who teased and bleached her Mohawk hair,

who went to jail for self-pleasure on stage.

Who worked as a wildlife rehabilitator,

who fronted her band wearing just shaving cream,

who shot herself to death in the woods,

who blew up cars while singing her dream.

Sonnet for Saint Elizabeth

North Adams, MA

In my room above the Mohawk Tavern, I read

while rainfall swells the Hoosac River in its channel.

Elizabeth soothed a leper in her marriage bed.

A surge alert for smaller streams. The annals

of eight long centuries past, flood and famine.

Outside I tramp on genus malus, mashed

and wasted on sidewalks. Over oceans and eons,

the same pain and hungers plague Saint Elizabeth’s Parish.

Abutting the Big Y supermarket, the civic groves’

sweet crabapples fall. Ruler turned healer, unheeding,

she tricked her inquisitors to see roses instead of loaves.

A miracle. The ornamental orchards drop their bleeding

red fruit. O Christ in the garden, O outcast, O patroness

of pie bakers, minister now to these afflictions.


Hope Jordan’s work appears most recently in Hole in the Head Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Stone Canoe, and Blue Mountain Review. She grew up in Chittenango, NY, holds a dual BA from Syracuse and an MFA in Creative Writing from UMass Boston. She lives in NH, where she was the state’s first official poetry slam master. Her chapbook is The Day She Decided to Feed Crows.


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