Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Poems for the inauguration of Barack Obama

Poems for the inauguration of Barack Obama

Poems written for the inauguration of Barack Obama as 44th president.
Launch
A boat is sliding into the water today
to test the water and the boat
which glides down a grassy bank
the prow touching the wavelets
then another push
and the length of it up and buoyant
the tapered length of it floating
toward the middle on its own
as we watch from the shore
pointing to the heavy clouds coming in
from every side
but now above us only the sun's golden rafters
and the boat afloat
out there on the bright surface of the water.
--By Billy Collins.
___
The land was never ours, nor we the land's:
no, not in Selma, with the hose turned on,
nor in the valley picking the alien vines.
Nor was it ours in Watts, Montgomery--
no matter what the frosty poet said.
We heard the crack of whips, the mothers' moans
in anthems like an undertow of grief.
The land was never ours but we believed
a King's dream might some day become a deed
to what we did not own, though it owed us.
(Who had the luxury to withhold himself?)
No gift outright for us, we earned this land
with sorrows currency: our hands, our backs,
our Rosas, Martins, Jesses our Baracks.
Today we give our land what we withheld:
the right at last to call itself one nation
--By Julia Alvarez.
Copyright (c) 2009 by Julia Alvarez. By permission of Susan Bergholz Literary Services, New York and Lamy, NM. All rights reserved.
___
Making the News
It's not right to burn newsprint,
The stink of ink in the air,
But I have to crumple at least a few pages
And strike a match in the fireplace--
The bad years go up in a question mark of smoke.
Or should I make confetti from the sports section,
Or shape a dunce hat from the business page--
I, the investor in rubber bands
That shot me in the foot.
Or should I cut out coupons--
Two cans of soup for the price of one.
Or, for a laugh, should I spread open the comics
On the kitchen table and string a macaroni necklace,
The playground craft I could master.
I choose smoke and fire,
The sting in my eyes on this January day,
And poke a wreath of newspaper
Until it crackles with a steady fire.
Let's air out the square and oval rooms.
Let's wave at a dog frolicking on the lawn.
Let's hear children and the tap of rain on a tulip.
Let's welcome the new resident to our house,
His handshake strong from the clasp of so many.
--By Gary Soto.
___
The Procession
Yes, the dust of the Great Migration
is in our dreams & on the soles of our feet,
but we can foxtrot into this bandaged season
limping toward us from the fog. Each question
uncurls a little whip in the air. Can we change
tomorrow? Can we love what's in the deep mirror
& trace fault lines beneath nocturnal streets?
Loneliness & anger always know the road home.
Now the long-lost ones stand at the threshold
& gaze into our eyes. Please don't turn away,
don't retreat into caves of artificial light
& borrowed lowly laughter brimming up.
There's a hard, long road ahead. Nights
& days ahead, one foot in front of the other.
Days ahead, one foot in front of the other
is how we ascend Jacob's tangled ladder.
Bring your lantern & philosopher's stone,
your pick & shovel, ball of twine, hook
& sinker, your slide ruler & plumb bob.
There's some faithful work to be done
on this hill & down in the valley, too.
Bring your running shoes & baseball cap.
I tell you, I'm no one's Benjamin Banneker,
but I know a cul-de-sac is a whiplash
& slipknot. Sometimes you have to bow
to self-given thorns, or weave around a body
of water. Some things you argue against
or for, & then you go straight through bedrock.
You have to go straight through bedrock
to find hope, I said. You can't kill the past
to erase a page. Cut out a tongue singing delta,
& still a windy lamentation crests the hilltop.
Burn odes into ash to smear on the forehead,
but still the laconic cricket calls the night
to sing deeds, blasphemies, & allegories
droning beneath the earth's blueprint.
Yes, even if we parade in secondhand garb
as priestly nobodies, the Daylight Boys,
or other heretical truth-seekers, we know
weeping isn't a fly in a spider's web.
If you can't see hunger on our streets,
at least remember hard songs left behind.
At least remember hard songs left behind
on fields from Concord to the Green Zone.
Our maps go to the edge of a lost frontier,
following every unsolved riddle & tributary,
indigenous souls still in the drizzle & bog
grass, behind hedgerows--beyond imagination.
Now there's one sky, with holes in the ozone.
Limitless steps across snow recast star charts.
All the old gods gaze at us like deathwatch
beetles, waiting to see what we do with this hour.
Let Walt Whitman put his lips to your ear
as he rocks the dead of north & south in his arms.
Words taproot down to what we are made of,
& these hosannas are ours to surrender to.
These hosannas are ours to surrender to
till laurel & olive branch into our footpath,
an eruption of blooms overtaking our heads.
We're here to honor those who came before,
who gladly or sadly gave themselves back
to earth. You know their names. We know
who stood & never lost ground. We know
who knelt beside their contraband drums
& depended on hawthorn to guard them.
Sunlight & water draw roots deep as seed
& oath; their sway & pull can bend an oak
over a grand monument. Evermore pours
from a beggar's tin cup as one thousand
clocks strike inside the stone base.
Clocks strike inside the stone base.
The mainsprings are about to be adjusted
& oiled. For the first time in decades
the blindfold has slipped off her face,
& we are now seeing her true reflection
on the harbor. The shortcuts tell us, no,
the winding road isn't a second guess,
& one could risk one's life getting here.
Where I stand in splendor, at this point
of view, surely, it is already Springtime.
How could it not be? The Sunday-go-to-
meeting clothes, the bright hats cocked
at the true angle that slays blue devils.
How could it not be? This is the hour.
How could it not be? This is the hour
beckoning the North Star & drinking gourd,
waist-deep shadows crossing the Ohio River,
& I hear Fredrick Douglass' voice in a brisk
shiver of dry leaves, saying, "When the dogs
in your streets, when the fowls of the air,
when the cattle on your hills, when the fish
of the sea, & then reptiles that crawl"
The rattle of night pods is the only shaman
at this late hour. Secret markers run
from flatland to river town, pale desert
to mountain, grassland to autumn skyline.
From here I see a lighthouse, love of the planet
bringing a polar bear back to its ice floe.
--By Yusef Komunyakaa.
___
The World Has Changed
The World Has Changed:
Wake up & smell
The possibility.
The world
Has changed:
It did not
Change
Without
Your prayers
Without
Your faith
Without
Your determination
To
Believe
In liberation
&
Kindness;
Without
Your
Dancing
Through the years
That
Had
No
Beat.
The world has changed:
It did not
Change
Without
Your
Numbers
Your
Fierce
Love
Of self
&
Cosmos
It did not
Change
Without
Your
Strength.
The world has
Changed:
Wake up!
Give yourself
The gift
Of a new
Day.
The world has changed:
This does not mean
You were never
Hurt.
The world
Has changed:
Rise!
Yes
&
Shine!
Resist the siren
Call
Of
Disbelief.
The world has changed:
Don't let
Yourself
Remain
Asleep
To
It.
--By Alice Walker.
(Copyright (c) 2008 by Alice Walker.)
___
Poem for Obama
We want a hero, an uncommon one,
The common wisdom being that integrity
In an age of irony is as unlikely as fun
On jury duty and equally as vital to the city,
The state, and the nation. Put the likelihood
Of rejection and the inevitability
Of injustice on one side; the ability
Of free people to choose their livelihood
On the other; and though hope is genteel
And faith obsolete, yet breathes there
A man or woman who cannot feel
The charge of the change in the air?
May God, in this winter hour,
Shine on your countenance
And teach you to balance
The heart's poetry and the mind's power.
-- By David Lehman.
___
PLEA TO THE PRES
BAILOUTS FOR THE BIG GUYS
BUY BACK THEIR ROTTED FRUIT
FORGET THE CANOPY OF GOLD
IT'S THE PLATINUM PARACHUTE.