June Jordan says the history she cares about is the one we make together

by Stephanie Jimenez

To whom 
must I apologize 
for not enjoying big nature? 
Who is that ruining my walk?
For how many years 
did they say to not go alone, 
not go at all?

Don’t mention the woods to my mother, 
city woman who screams 
blood-curdling screams
if you put her on a boat 
and float her down a lovely lake.

Is it
because the ocean 
never had to be crossed?
Instructions were coded into Mom’s DNA
by dead, ancient gods:
the promised land was underfoot,
they wanted each bone in her skin 
to stay put.

The Igbo knew this place—
they flew back to Africa.
The Cherokee divided—
forward was the only way

And how many remain 
vexed by this North American soil,
looking over our shoulders
for our people?
Twisting our tongues 
to call this our country?
Still we are capable
of everything, everything
except country…

…If it were,
as in 
if it were the case 
that my friends and family 
would come down to big nature, 
I’d tell people I love 
more than landscapes
what I’ve seen here in these woods.

How supposedly,
what we’ve lived in the city
is no match for these rare
outdoors,
and the worlds we know are a cheap 
imitation 
of the whole wide infinity,

and in the same way 
the fish don’t see they’re wet
we don’t know
how truly oppressed

we are in those cells
called apartments.

Oh,
don’t get upset.
It’s not important we come to 
an agreement on beauty, 

only that we know ours, too.

My hard knock, 
boogie down, 
into the mountains 
you would make these trees envy 
the girls
we’ve become.

They think that big nature would 
do us some good
as if big nature 
doesn’t really
need you
and if it weren’t true
you’d make this place better.

Sometimes living in these mountains
is too tall an order: 
white pines I can’t climb,
walks in the woods I find half-sublime, 
ruined by all this thinking. 

Here I am hiking trails
heartsick for

you

people
I call home
calling
to know

who am I with
am I and if

I’m enjoying myself.

Stephanie Jimenez is an Asheville-based writer from New York. She is the author of the novel They Could Have Named Her Anything.