Monday, January 21, 2013

“Praise Song for the Day,” written and recited by Elizabeth Alexander, as provided by Graywolf Press, Read By Richard Blanco

The following is a transcript of the inaugural poem, “Praise Song for the Day,” written and recited by Elizabeth Alexander, as provided by Graywolf Press.

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.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Marsh

For years, summer storms
enable nothing grassy
growth along the slope
in my backyard,
Sand losses
lead to muddy Marsh
at the bottom
of the lawn,
scars of broken earth
stand as wrinkles
of an old man's forehead,
until one day,
He and I added
buckets of soil
to fix it,
with a net validating
the smoothed edges,
green grass
finds home
with joy,
hopeful dreams
revive, leaving
behind the dead Marsh
that used to
give hush sighs.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Henry Rabeneau

To be gay, free, to be a liver,
To see through the cant of service;
To hoot effectively the uplifter;
To know that life is a jest;
And man a germ amid bread and roaring,
kicking off the ropes of the dwarfs,
Breaking the chains of the New Jerusalemites.
To smile at all pgilosophies and religions,
As the mind wanderings of starving wits.
To be a fat and lusty weed,
Flaunting insolent leaves-
Then to have the dwarfs get you,
and cover you with their ideas of dishonor,
until infinite disgust rots you,
and your wither and lisp and break,
Frost bitten and dusted over.
That was I, fellow citizens
until in the hour of death
One moment of myself, gay and free,
and insolent, returned in a laugh!