Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Praise Song for the Day

Praise Song for the Day
By Elizabeth Alexander

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, boombox, 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

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”
“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 pre-empt 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.

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