Two Poems by Judy Juanita — Across The Margin

These two poems by Judy Juanita join a collection titled Gawdzilla which conflate the destructive, prehistoric sea monster Godzilla with U.S. Imperialism…

by: Judy Juanita

the biggest difference is not the money
     (on seeing robert palmer’s hands clutching a cigarette two days before he died)

the biggest difference is not
the best selling records
the chart-topping sales
the stadium tours
the vacuous interviews like they’re geniuses not hustlers
or products of hustlers
changing I Shot the Sheriff
from protest freedom anthem 
to celebration of guitar virtuosity
the biggest difference is not the pure
imperialism of elvis and his forbidden sex
versus the wide open sex of big mama thornton
the biggest difference is not retiring
midlife to palm springs and jersey
versus having to work the casinos until they drop dead 

the biggest difference is the unknuckled 
uncalloused soft white hands
godzilla of innocence

How did white Americans get so innocent? Why do they hate us? Why
would they kill innocent people? A while back a white woman went to
get her prescription filled in the middle of the night in Oakland on
Telegraph Ave. Now that’s bad enough right there. As a black woman
I would be watching my back just on account of that. But this woman-
God rest her innocent pure soul-takes her recycling to the back of the 
Walgreen’s at midnight after getting her prescription filled. I know 
she must have been in pain to be out at that time of night but as luck 
would have it a crackhead comes up and blows her away. Very sad 
but, again I ask, when did white folks get so fucking innocent? With 
the blood of four centuries of oppression and war and what do you 
call that when you take somebody’s land and call it your own –
appropriation, misappropriation? And I know white folks love to say,
but I never owned slaves I never did that That was over 150 years 
ago. I grew up in East Oakland I was never a slave I never picked 
cotton or got paid in chitlins and hog maw but I know from whence I 
came and the road that led here. And here we go again with this guy 
in the CIA, this innocence this fucking innocence. Why? Johnny Mike 
Spann. He was 29 years old. Wanted to be in the CIA or FBI since 
high school. Where did he get this notion? Only two of two places: 
movies and tv. He was watching reruns of “The Man from 
U.N.C.L.E.” and “The Saint” with Roger Moore, not to mention 
Tarzan, the original CIA, the template for the CIA, Bwana. This was 
the pattern in his little blond head. That’s why two CIA, with their 
pistols, he’s so proud to be one of them-step up in front of a crowd of 
captured Taliban with a simple-assed question, Why are you here? A 
real John Wayne moment on non-John Wayne turf. Of course all hell 
breaks loose and while Spann kills three of them, they stomp and bite, 
yes, bite, yes, bite him to death. “Mission Impossible” never ended 
like that. “Secret Agent” man? It’s very powerful when our fantasies 
come true. It’s very dangerous when our fantasies come true because 
it’s very unreal when our fantasies come true.

Judy Juanita’s poetry collection, Manhattan my ass, you’re in Oakland, won the American Book Award 2021 from the Before Columbus Foundation. Her poem “Bling” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2012. Her semi-autobiographical novel, Virgin Soul, is about a young woman who joins the Black Panther Party in the 60s (Viking, 2013). Her collection of essays, DeFacto Feminism: Essays Straight Outta Oakland [EquiDistance, 2016], examines race, gender, politics and spirituality, as experienced by a black activist and self-described “feminist foot soldier.” Her essay, “The Gun as Performance Poem,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2014. Winner of the Tartt Fiction Prize at the University of West Alabama [UWA], her short story collection, “The High Price of Freeways,” will be published by Livingston Press  [UWA] in July, 2022. Her website is

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