Inauguration Poem-Full Video


Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, America,
One Today. 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

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