The 12-ish Days of Christmas: Poetic Inauguration Countdown––Two Weeks

This was supposed to be the post for yesterday, which is the two week countdown to the inauguration of Joe Biden as President and Kamal Harris as Vice President. However, it did not seem appropriate as misguided Americans were assaulting the Capitol, which is pictured above as the traditional location for the Inauguration.

Now that the Congress has officially certified the coming transfer of power, however, perhaps this is just the thing we need to proceed with the proper energy.

Barack Obama was the third President to incorporate a poem into his inauguration ceremonies. For his first election, he selected Elizabeth Alexander, whom he met when she was teaching at the University of Chicago and was head of the African American studies program at Yale at the time.

Praise Song for the Day:
A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidental Inauguration

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.

Certainly today, after a rough yesterday, I suggest we all consider her question: What if the mightiest word is love?


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