Elizabeth Alexander’s Inaugural Poem

o learn more about poet Elizabeth Alexander, visit her home page.
    Eventually, a full version of her Inaugural Poem will be published with her own version of the proper line breaks and punctuation. For now, here are excerpts we took down as she gave this new poem to a waiting nation …

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 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 need to find a place where we are safe; we walk into that which we cannot yet see.
    Say it plain: Many have died for this day.
    Praise song for struggle.
    Praise song for the day.
    Praise song for every hand-lettered sign — for the figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”
    Others by “First do no harm,”
    Others by “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 sentence begun.
    On the brink,
    On the brim,
    On the cusp …

Praise song for walking forward in that light.
    Praise song for the day.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email