One Today, Richard Blanco: Inauguration poem

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.

Richard Blanco

Quote

qotd

If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution. Never whine. Whining lets a brute know that a victim is in the neighborhood.

Maya Angelou

British TV and another poem by somebody else entirely

Watched an episode of the seemingly endless British TV mysteries that I seem to be well able to ferret out on Netflix: Kavanagh QC. This series stars John Thaw, who is famous in America for the Inspector Morse series that he starred in.

But I digress.

I note that fact because it explains the latest addition to my almost-never-updated anthology section here on the blog, wherein I reprint shamelessly poems by other people that I love. And what has this got to do with anything? you ask. I’m getting there, I reply.

The last time I added a poem — The Death Bed by Siegfried Sassoon — it was because I heard it recited at the very end of an episode of NUMB3RS. Five seconds’ worth of Googling got me to the poem, and it is one of the two most popular poems in the anthology section.

And now, this: South Country by Hillaire Belloc. The last ten lines were recited at the very end of this episode of Kavanagh QC.

Nobody writes poems in these striding dactylic meters any more, more’s the pity.

South Country: Hilaire Belloc

WHEN I am living in the Midlands
  That are sodden and unkind,
I light my lamp in the evening:
  My work is left behind;
And the great hills of the South Country          5
  Come back into my mind.
The great hills of the South Country
  They stand along the sea;
And it’s there walking in the high woods
  That I could wish to be,   10
And the men that were boys when I was a boy
  Walking along with me.
The men that live in North England
  I saw them for a day:
Their hearts are set upon the waste fells,   15
  Their skies are fast and grey;
From their castle-walls a man may see
  The mountains far away.
The men that live in West England
  They see the Severn strong,   20
A-rolling on rough water brown
  Light aspen leaves along.
They have the secret of the Rocks,
  And the oldest kind of song.
But the men that live in the South Country   25
  Are the kindest and most wise,
They get their laughter from the loud surf,
  And the faith in their happy eyes
Comes surely from our Sister the Spring
  When over the sea she flies;   30
The violets suddenly bloom at her feet,
  She blesses us with surprise.
I never get between the pines
  But I smell the Sussex air;
Nor I never come on a belt of sand   35
  But my home is there.
And along the sky the line of the Downs
  So noble and so bare.
A lost thing could I never find,
  Nor a broken thing mend:   40
And I fear I shall be all alone
  When I get towards the end.
Who will there be to comfort me
  Or who will be my friend?
I will gather and carefully make my friends   45
  Of the men of the Sussex Weald;
They watch the stars from silent folds,
  They stiffly plough the field.
By them and the God of the South Country
  My poor soul shall be healed.   50
If I ever become a rich man,
  Or if ever I grow to be old,
I will build a house with deep thatch
  To shelter me from the cold,
And there shall the Sussex songs be sung   55
  And the story of Sussex told.
I will hold my house in the high wood
  Within a walk of the sea,
And the men that were boys when I was a boy
  Shall sit and drink with me.   60

Hilaire Belloc