Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Inauguration Poem

Each time I read this, I like it more--the simplicity of the language, the rich texture of images, the collection of common actions and characters, the echoes of Whitman. So here it is, along with this link to an interview with the poet on The Colbert Report. Warning--Stephen Colbert uses crude language and sexual innuendo while discussing the poem with Ms. Alexander, and the show's usual political bias is evident, but it's really a great conversation with the poet about the context of what she wrote. And it's surprisingly entertaining. They even manage to talk about Mad Max while discussing the poem. Praise Song for the Day 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.
01/25 at 10:26 AM

Sunday, January 11, 2009


The missing My America outlines have just been found. I will return them to you tomorrow.
01/11 at 09:25 PM

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Beware the New Year

01/03 at 10:36 AM