Sarah Lyons brings us a poem by John Trudell

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I met John Trudell in Portland in 1993 at the Clinton St. theater. He was mingling with the audience after one of his spoken word concerts and we started talking. We ended up going outside to get some fresh air and taking a walk. I was kind of surprised but it happened very easily. I found myself on a quiet sidewalk with an artist who had just performed. I asked him about the lyrics of one of the poems he had recited (“Tina Smiled”). They were intense, evocative and political. I wanted to know more. He told me matter-of-factly the poem was about his wife, kids and mother-in-law, all of whom died in a suspicious fire after he received a threat from FBI agents. I felt time stop when he told me that. John Trudell had been a leader of the American Indian Movement — one of the organizations COINTELPRO targeted. They destroyed AIM and many people in the process. In the aftermath, John became a spoken word poet. He performed with musicians and developed a unique sound. We stayed connected after that first meeting and visited several times when he was to Portland. He has a way of shocking people with his intensity and his gentleness in equal measure. He’s also crazy as a loon and embraces the madness of life. This is one of his gentle poems.
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John Trudell. Photograph by Ken Ige
John Trudell. Photograph by Ken Ige
Here is a video of Trudell performing poem in studio
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See the Woman
by John Trudell
She has a young face
An old face
She carries herself well
In all ages
She survives all man has done

In some tribes she is free
In some religions
She is under man
In some societies
She’s worth what she consumes

In some nations
She is delicate strength
In some states
She is told she is weak
In some classes
She is property owned

In all instances
She is sister to earth
In all conditions
She is life bringer
In all life she is our necessity

See the woman eyes
Flowers swaying
On scattered hills
Sun dancing calling in the bees

See the woman heart
Lavender butterflies
Fronting blue sky
Misty rain falling
On soft wild roses

See the woman beauty
Lightning streaking
Dark summer nights
Forests of pines mating
With new winter snow

See the woman spirit
Daily serving courage
With laughter
Her breath a dream
And a prayer

Founder of the Politics for the People free educational series and book club for independent voters. Chair of the New York County Independence Party.

3 thoughts on “Sarah Lyons brings us a poem by John Trudell

  1. Thank you for sharing this sarah. It’s very poem and the story you share about meeting and getting to know the poet really shaped how the poem impacted on me. It’s strong and powerful and sad all together.

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