Ceiling to Sky

With June Jordan.

You had some nerve, some told you, to speak love into the war, to flaunt that voluptuous hope in all her fullness, wearing not a stitch of modesty. Not even cynicism, or nihilism; neither was she utopian, and although they tried to call her ignorant, her brilliance shone.

They urged you to cover her up, but you wanted to let her dance. You gave her new songs and the earthquake moved you, the way every atom of life and its killing was suddenly known in the leaning faces of strangers.

Coming clean in a disaster is still a possibility, you insisted, and dreamed a blues to meet the moment when the ground breaks itself open, dreamed it a birth breaking open, a mouth to catch a final breath and release––and what came forth from that exhalation? They asked you about your aim and you told them. I aim to make love a reasonable possibility.


Inspired by Josh Kun’s (1995) BOMB interview with June Jordan, discussing the libretto she wrote for I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky (with composer John Adams).


When the poets took cover.

Hiding a generation in our bones, we sipped from the ancients, but as they swelled our rhythms against the tempo of our moment, one common side effect was dizziness. Some took to bed, but there were other ways. 

We called it consolation. We called it our time out of mind. For many, the vertigo was so intense that we called it nothing for a long time.  When we woke, our sheets would be wet with memory and before these had a chance to dry someone with an official title would come inspecting, demanding some explanation. 

Invariably, our answers confirmed their suspicions, and they would make notes certifying their opinions that we were likely dumb, possibly also deranged, which tends to be the official response to any negative capability. But when the empire of certitude began to crumble, we were stirring.

Then came a mind up from the bottom of history, and this was our moment, and in those basements between buildings we were clearing our throats, this specter among us said, Time.