06 October 2008

Elizabeth Alexander's inaugural poem

[i added linebreaks
and removed capitalisation and punctuation
from the ?unofficial transcript (video/crit/thread)

added: ?official linebreaks

her website poems for comparison]

praisesong 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 oildrum
with cello

a woman and her son wait for the bus

a farmer considers the changing sky

a teacher says
take out your pencils

we encounter each other in words
words spiny or smooth
whispered or declaimed

words to consider

we cross dirt roads and highways
that mark the will of someone
and then others
who said
i need to see whats on the other side
i know theres 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 traintracks
raised the bridges
picked the cotton and the lettuce
brick by brick
the glittering edifices they would then keep clean
and work inside of

praisesong for struggle
praisesong for the day
praisesong for every handlettered 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 preempt grievance

in todays sharp sparkle
this winter air
any thing can be made
any sentence begun

on the brink on the brim on the cusp

praisesong for walking forward in that light