In response to today’s WordPress Daily Post Challenge, I find myself once again (still?) feeling the need to speak out for reason, for truth, for reality. Because for months now I/we have been hammered by an altered reality that bears no resemblance to anything short of a future of utter devastation of all we know, trust, believe in, hold dear.
So many words vie for prominence. Many are now familiar for their endless repetition — though repetition alone can not make truth. What I want to make prominent are words of consequence, of conscience, of connection.
And so, in response to today’s prompt, I offer one of the most inspiring inaugural poems ever written. So many reminders of whence we came and how we might proceed together into the future. Too many favorite phrases to repeat. Just the poem in its entirety, which you can also hear in her own voice here.
Praise Song for the Day: A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration 2008, by Elizabeth Alexander
Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
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 some one 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 thyself,
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 pre-empt grievance.
In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.