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Judy Juanita: California Poets Part 5, Five Poems

Judy Juanita

December 22nd, 2022

California Poets: Part V

Judy Juanita

Five Poems

I try not to keep seeing jesus I try not to keep seeing jesus on the mean streets of san fran where he makes me hate gutters why isn’t he black like the wooly haired jesus in the black churches? I keep seeing him white as old caked dirt I could bathe his nasty self make him white as snow But he’s too mean to touch let alone scrub I keep seeing him (dat not babyjesus) I keep seeing this snarly man evil as a woman who just found her man in bed with another man (him so evil his mama don’t want him) and he curses his father every time he looks to the heavens sends a tail of comets up gawd’s ass out of pure spite give him a plain name like rahim who cares if it’s muslim? and, my gawd, decapitalize it

when godzilla booted nixon out of the oval office lawyers and secretaries stood at the juncture caught in the frisson of empire changing hands young jewish lawyers earnest about civil liberties poor for a minute and horny/suspended in space between law school and their life-to-be sharply dressed black secretaries privy to everyone’s secrets/which is to say completely powerless/unless inclined to blow jobs and quickies at the juncture it looked like a permanent mosaic complete with the local black militant in his socialist phase who marches/into the office for cash like it was guerilla warfare/sweeps past the secretaries (soon to be replaced by computers) secretaries tasked to visit the big donor’s big mansion the big donor writes the big check, asks if they want ice cream rings a bell in the blink of an eye a colored maid in uniform comes down and serves them hair askance top button unbuttoned eyeballs rolling at the black women she serves before she leaves in a huff and the talking goes on

arming for armageddon and godzilla I put everything she taught me in a snow globe and turn it upside down never let a man use you for a pisspot I brush my nipples against men’s chests your lips are too big for red lipstick never wear red, you’re too dark I look at red dresses forever buy one and wear it forever do you know how ugly you really are? and white people don’t have flat feet a white girl blond and giggly orders spumoni in front of me standing on white feet flatter than pancakes years later I read that in slavery the mothers protected their young daughters from rape by the slavemaster: you is ugly, never forget how ugly you is

Barney, the gawdzilla-training toy I take little Jo-Jo to see a real live Barney. All the kiddies are so excited. They had their little purple Barneys, singing the goofy song, all their mothers, aunties, grandmas-one or two daddies-all ready to see Barney. This great six foot five Barney, looking like a dinosaur with purple carpeting, comes out and all the kids start bawling. Boo-hooing. Shivering. Scared shitless. Jo-Jo jumps on my chest, his little heart thumping away. Terrified. One thing to see Barney on the TV set every day at daycare. A horse of a different color to see this great big old purple people-eating megasaurus. They never do get those kids quieted down. The closer he comes to them, they more they freak out-gawdzilla, in small measure, confronted directly by children. The terrible irony is that the adults, we who’ve fought gawdzilla all our damn lives, howl. Bowled over, pitifully cracking up. Hysterical with laughter. I haven’t laughed that hard in a month of Sundays. It brings tears to my eyes.

d.j. raw product Yeah, went to get a burrito in Berkeley and next door the white boys were playing John Coltrane, no, a John Coltrane score. Hah! Sheet music. Shit Music!! If I never took a lesson held a clarinet tuba snared a drum bruised a thumb playing on a trumpet trying to be Dizzy Gillespie I gotta watch? Watch, ma’ fucker, no I ain’t gotta watch nothing. I’m a player. I ain’t dead. I know niggas was fabulous raw product for the last 400 years and capitalism functions high white and mighty off raw product. Capitalism say, we got to commodify John Coltrane. Put his shit down on paper, sell it, buy it, store it, CD it, stream it, and then we don’t need John. Die, mafucker, for all we care. We will build you an edifice called smooth jazz and on your tombstone put: NIGGERS WATCHED SLAVED AND FORGOT THEY DREAMS. Go eat a burrito, mafucker, with hi tech no sauce, we can’t be commodified because we free even if some of us gotta die to get that freedom.

Author Bio:

Novelist, poet, and essayist, Judy Juanita’s poetry collection, Manhattan my ass, you’re in Oakland, won the American Book Award in 2021. Her semi-autobiographical novel, Virgin Soul, was published by Viking [2013]; its protagonist joins the Black Panther Party in the sixties in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her collection of short stories, The High Price of Freeways, won the 2021 Tartt Fiction Award is published in 2022. Her poem “Bling” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2012. Her essay, “The Gun as Performance Poem,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2014. Her twenty-odd plays have been produced in the Bay Area and New York City. She teaches writing at University of California, Berkeley.


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