Praise Song for the Day
By Elizabeth Alexander
Praise song for the day.
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 someone 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 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.
Alexander's inaugural poem was reprinted in The Washington Post. Wednesday night on The Colbert Report, Alexander talked about her choice to read an ode -- a form often used in West African poetry -- and discussed the concept of "occasional poetry" to mark major occasions, though Colbert suggested that she should have written, "Hickory Dickory Dock/We elected a guy named Barack."
I did not get a lot accomplished today. I picked Daniel up from school at noon when he finished his math midterm since he's still not feeling well, we came home and had lunch. Then I had to fold the laundry that was finally dry on various pieces of furniture in the basement, and we decided to watch Deep Impact, a first for me because so many people had assured me that Armageddon was vastly superior. Which in some ways is true -- tighter screenplay, more consistent performances -- but Deep Impact has a lot to recommend it, not just Morgan Freeman as the president and Mary McCormack as an astronaut, whom I knew were in it, plus Robert Duvall, Denise Crosby, Maximilian Schell, and a ridiculously young Elijah Wood, but also Richard Schiff, Kurtwood Smith, and an equally ridiculously young Jason Dohring ("Hey Leo, you're going to have more sex than anyone in our class"), and Washington, DC as featured co-star. Tea Leoni is mediocre but the movie itself is quite enjoyable. In the late afternoon I took one son to the doctor while Paul took the other to tennis, and that was the day.
This is what the sunset looked like as the sky clouded over. (The bunny is at lower left above the bush.)
By Monday at lunchtime, when we went to meet my father-in-law at Isaac's Deli in York, the weather had turned...
...and when we got back to Hanover in the afternoon, there was an inch of snow on the ground.
Snow showers continued even after the sun came out, and the bunny stayed in hiding the entire day.
My mother-in-law took this photo of the Tiffany window in St. Matthew's Church in Hanover. I've never taken a photo of it with sunlight coming through, only on Christmas Eve, so I swiped this one from her, because it's beautiful in daylight.
In most regards it was a good day -- Obama signed the order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, Heath Ledger and Kate Winslet got Oscar nominations and Gran Torino didn't (I think Eastwood is overrated, though perhaps not so much so as Mickey Rourke -- I really hope Langella wins that award), plus we learned that Bush did not obey orders from Cheney to pardon Libby. And Bionic Woman/Nimueh Michelle Ryan is going to be one of the guest stars in the next Doctor Who special!
We watched Smallville in the evening, where Lana had more chemistry with Tess than she has ever had with Clark, which is a good thing for Tess as well considering that her entire backstory seems to be: 1) saved by Oliver and 2) saved by Lex, so I love that scene where she's all hot and bothered when Lana walks in on her workout, and then later when she announces to Lana, "It's nice to finally see what Lex saw in you -- you're stunning, and devious" -- whoo, bring on the femslash! Especially since Lana is so deluded that she thinks Lex saw an equal in her, rather than Clark Kent's Girlfriend. Of course the episode is nearly ruined by ending with Clark kissing Lana, even though Chloe has already told Clark that Lois is his for the claiming -- ugh, how could anyone choose Blahna over Lois! I loved Clark and Oliver arguing over the responsibilities of superheroes, though, and the implication that bad cops make Clark decide that caped crusader-dom without rules might be justified is interesting if unnerving. Wishing Heath his overdue Oscar aside, I loathe the current version of Batman and would prefer my Superman to remain closer to his original idealistic roots.
And Jon Stewart just earned his January paycheck with his explanation that if Dick Cheney was Darth Vader, then Joe Biden is Dark Helmet. Bwaaah!