Poet of the Week: Jacqueline Johnson

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The Last Rain Queen

Your life was community property.
Your will a kind of “nkisi” meant to
serve other interests, never your own.
Your actions were to be dictated by elders.

Decreed to bring coolness, water, fertility
to a land, a people. Even if you had to fill
the horizon with your own tears.
To make rain — water the skies was your destiny.

You were the rain queen who ruled hot.
Getting an education for a job that did not require it.
Choosing your own lover and whom you would marry.
Upturning the patriarchy like a hurricane.

Going and coming as you pleased.
You brought the modern to their faces
and flaunted it; driving your lexis across
the countryside and running off to Europe.

No Isangoma or princess but Rain Queen
at twenty seven.  Yet a woman still, wanting
a way of life that blazed and blossomed in you.
You refused to be their instrument.

What are the secrets of bringing rain, coolness
to an intemperate, always hot people?
Hungry for jobs, healthcare, technology.
How could you assuage needs generations long?

When you fell unconscious
a culture of priests cut with cruelty
so desiring a new rain queen —
kept you, a dying woman alive

six months while your fetus thrived.
You paid the highest human price.
Same ones that crowned you sent
you to join the ancestors prematurely.

Is it true the father snatched his daughter away
at birth before the priests could claim her?
The intra tribal infighting is still going on.
Rumor has it the next rain queen will be a man.


Jacqueline Johnson’s Poets Tour Profile 
Photo Credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths