Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Praise Song For The Day

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.

- Elizabeth Alexander, Poet

The poem written for the Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Obama and read on January 20, 2009. (Transcription from the New York Times via Congressional Quarterly.)


Sue said...

What beautiful words - you must all be so proud to be Americans!! Congratulations and enjoy all the festivities!

Sue xxx

purpleronnie said...

Fantastic! I have goosebumps! Good luck Mr President!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lee,

Thanks for posting the poem. Now, I just need to find the musical piece by Perlman and the quartet.

"Guided by the Ancestors"

Nana Fi said...

It is a beautiful poem. The Inauguration was amazing. I have to admit that it is the only one I have ever really watched. I loved it and I just love your new President and his family. His speech gave me goose flesh at times. Let peace prevail in the world! Fiona

Pink Granite said...

Hi All -
I really liked the poem and thought it captured the pulse of "ordinary" people, but in an extraordinarily clear yet artistic way.

I look forward to seeing Ms. Alexander's own transcription because the line breaks are important to the way a poem scans and is read.

It is so exciting to be "walking forward in that light" together, under a wonderful new administration!
- Lee

Pink Granite said...

BTW George -
I haven't been able to find a regular audio recording of Perlman, Ma, McGill and Montero's performance at the Inauguration, but here's a link to a YouTube video, which Chuck found (there are several):

- Lee