Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inaugural

Around five or six o'clock today, writer Richard Krawiec challenged a number of people on facebook to write an inaugural poem--Kathryn Stripling Byer is probably to blame for my inclusion on the list... (Thanks, Kay!) I curled up by the window while snow fell down and drafted this blank verse poem. It opens with images from the Bible--the lowly pot and the potter.

SO HOLD THE DREAM

Even a famous man is just a pot
Thrown on the wheel—centered and true, one hopes,
But a pot all the same. So says the book
You use today, on which you swear a vow,
Your fingertips touching the word of God
And your skin prickling with the fingerprints
Of the potter—or nervousness, perhaps.
As pot, you circle round the air, you shine,
Preserving and protecting, defending
This Constitution you swear to uphold,
Words that are wild, sweet apples from the branch
Of freedom, watered with blood of ancestors.
Like an oblation jar, now keep for us
The fruit of that dream nation pilgrims sought
And suffered, all our union marred by sin
Because we were only men and women,
Fearing the white ships at the harbor’s edge,
Fearing the dark shapes moving in the woods,
Fearing and scorning what we did not grasp.
A jar holds summer’s peaches, summer’s sun
As if no time has passed: so hold the dream,
As if both light and shade could be our joy,
As if the past could yet be a blessing,
As if our knowledge came from wrong and right
Twisted together, a tree of knowledge.
So hold the dream, and let us taste of light
In scorning no one for his freeborn thoughts,
Knowing how little we discern, knowing
That we must stand together in this place,
One country given much, among many,
One planet set against the stars and cold:
So hold the dream, and let us taste of light.
                   
 21 January 2013

19 comments:

  1. Lovely, Marly. And you just whipped this together in a short time! (Sighing with awe and a twinge of envy.)

    Hope you are getting better...

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  2. Thanks, Marja-Leena--

    I'll bet you can whip things together in your own realm when the spirit moves!

    Bugwise: I hope so too. Am now on day 13, and engaged to Sir Guai Fenesin. We go on coughing sessions together.

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  3. Now this is what i call an inspiring inaugural poem.

    i'm sorry that bug still pesters you.
    And unpleasantly surprised at how long it is taking to clear the dregs of the one that bit me...blowing as hard as i am. XD

    If only we could stop passing around these little monsters to each other!

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  4. Marly, this the Inaugural poem we needed. Beautiful. It should be sent to Obama. Thank you!

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  5. This is lovely. I am, as usual, awed and impressed. Personally, the idea of inauguration does not inspire me particularly to write a poem.

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  6. Thank you, Miss Zephyr--

    And I hope we will all be well soon--hacking one's way through life is not so pleasant...

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  7. Kay,

    You are invariably kind, and I much appreciate it. Every time we e-chat, I remember being that little Cullowhee teen devoted to poetry and talking with you on the Hunter lawn or in the library. You were the first poet I knew... And you are still inspiring for your faithfulness to the art and clarity!

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  8. Robbi,

    Thanks, glad you found it worthy! I didn't think of it as "inspiring" but as a challenge to be met, if possible. The occasional poem always has certain difficulties, related to the fact that it is usually an assignment of some sort.

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  9. A terrific poem, Marly, and a difficult challenge well met! (Hope it spurs you on to wellness, too.)

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  10. Thanks, Beth! It is interesting to try something that's not wholly congenial--that one wouldn't normally do.

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  11. Really a wonderful poem, Marly. Thank you!

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  12. Dale, thank you--

    I value your judgment, Mr. Mole-Poet!

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  13. Rachel,

    Thank you very much for reading and liking--and letting me know. I am grateful.

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  14. Also thanks to various writers and readers who wrote me elsewhere, especially Sally Buckner, Jeffery Beam, painter Ashley Cooper, Donna Doyle, and Linda Parsons Marion. Thanks to people who made one or more facebook posts--Kathryn Stripling Byer, Richard Krawiec, Vicki Johnson, Beth Adams--and those who mentioned it on twitter as well.

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  15. I usually hate these kinds of occasional poems, and seldom can finish them, but this one actually says something and is a pleasure to read. And I agree, you should send it to Barack--my guess is he might some bucking up in the coming months, and also, if he has any sense or sensibility, he'll write you a handwrit note of thanks, and your great grandchildren can frame it or sell it for $10,000, as need be.

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  16. Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you for that comment! I do think that occasional poems need to be "about something" and am glad you found this one so...

    I tend to doubt that anything one mails to the White House finds its way to the one who sits in the Oval Office... So shall be content with a few readers here! Thank you for being one of them.

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  17. A challenge will sometimes open up unexpected approaches! I enjoy this poem Marly. It's uplifting.

    Interestingly (to me) I have been thinking of people as 'vessels' and so the potter and the pot idea are timely for me.

    A pot of any shape will hold so much water.
    The pot simply determines HOW the water is held - and how easily it will flow out when poured.
    But the water is the same in all pots : )

    Let's hope Obama was fashioned as a water jug...

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  18. Paul, thanks--so glad you liked it.

    Yes, the whole idea of vessel and containing and pouring out works well as a metaphor (and for art, too.)

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.