Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Poem by Elizabeth Alexander

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.


Bob said...

I may be wrong, because when it comes to poetry what do I know, but I really didn't care for it.
Some of it, the imagery was fantastic, and reading it here, I got more out of it, but I think it was maybe the authgor's way of speaking, and reading, that put me off.
But it grows in me now.

Joy said...

I feel that way about it, too. That's mostly why I posted it.

Berry Blog said...

ah Leave it to my Joy to find it. I really didn't have any reaction to it at all when I saw and heard it. I just wondered however, if she's the latest National Poet Laureate or was she just invited to this occasion?

Joy said...

Apparently Kay Ryan is the poet laureate. I saw that in an article while I was looking for this poem. I didn't know we had one. Do we all the time? Who picks them?

Obama and Elizabeth Alexander taught together in Chicago, I think, and now she's a Yale professor.

Berry Blog said...

Yes, we have one all the time and I think they serve for two years and usually write for special occasions only. I don't know if they get a stipend and I don't know who appoints them. I don't know if this one was already in place or picked by the Obama people.

Jeff said...

I had a song in my heart all day on the 20th (and it's still there!). I liked the poem and I'm glad that Obama brought back the tradition of having a poet at the Inauguration. :)

Joy said...

Me, too! So far he's off to a good start.

D.Skowera said...

It's my first day blogging with this site and I'm glad I found one I like already, yours. I titled my new book Of Those So Close Beside me and was googling it and came across your page. Nice to see someone else who appreciates one of my favorite poems. You already got me hooked on Lie To Me! And I'm sorry to hear that they gave up emphasis on the Holocaust after you left, people don't understand what's important anymore.

Joy said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Come back any time! Welcome!