Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Monday, October 10, 2016

Inaugural, redux

Remembering the 2013 challenge to write an inaugural poem from poets Richard Krawiec and Kay Stripling Byer, I rooted around for this poem. I find it curious to contemplate those older thoughts during this campaign, the most--shall we politely say lively?--lively and divisive American election since the campaign of 1828.

If you want to see the comments people made about the poem back in January, 2013, go here.  But below is the text of the original post:



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.


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


  1. Such curious clay now spinning on the wheel, waiting later to be shaped first and then fired in the kiln of power. It makes me uncomfortable with pottery making.

  2. Such optimism, such political impartiality.

    And for me a tiny tickle of recognition. Years before, in my previous blog, Works Well, I too used the word "oblation" as an example of how the letter o can help promote euphony and only Lucy picked up on this. By then we were blogging friends but I like to think this innocent word helped reinforce our friendship.

    I especially envy you these lines:

    As if our knowledge came from wrong and right
    Twisted together, a tree of knowledge.

    1. Ah, that's an interesting way of making friends with Lucy!

      My natural bent is apolitical; I am in general allergic to politicians. I dislike political jargon and obfuscation, thinking such things belong to ill powers. Don't mess with my language! But I try to be informed despite my dislike for politics. I suppose it is wrong of me, or at least is wrong according to all those frenzied friends on Facebook, but it is how I am made.

      You are very good at picking out what you like! Perhaps that seems an odd thing to notice, but it is not common.


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.