Thanks to my friend Erin for sending along the inaugural poem by Elizabeth Alexander. While I enjoyed it as she was reading it, I find it more powerful in print:
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
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 consider 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
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp — praise song for walking
forward in that light.
This also brought back my very favorite memory from any inauguration — Maya Angelou’s reading of her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s in 1993. I have never heard anyone present a poem better than Angelou. It’s part gift of voice, part stunning intellect and part passion born of struggle. She is incomparable. Another reason to love YouTube: