THE HILL WE CLIMB by poet laureate Amanda Gorman is spoken at a historic inauguration and heard round the world. Brava!
I hadn’t meant to write a poem about a poem, but this is what happened here, halfway across the world, as it all aired:
By way of conversation, I said
‘There’s a new president in the States today. And a new VP.’
Toast lifted onto a plate across the room, butter scraped, a voice grating replies,
‘Makes no difference to me.’
We dance this dance often,
A tune that I hate.
It’s called apathy, cynicism, distrust, indifference
And I won’t rise to the bait.
So I said, ‘Of course, because you’re not American.’
What I want to say,
‘Because you’re not a woman,’ or,
‘Because you’re not subject to the vicissitudes of colour.’
Though I will not say
That I know any more, or any better,
Because that wouldn’t be true.
He who has felt the sting of mortar as friends are blasted in a senseless war
He who uprooted from a family who showed
Yet found a world of affection to give to his own
He who struggled through a rapid, new tongue
And by being silent among foreign words
Made do with observing the ways of being.
Time enough to get angry, jaded, disillusioned
By this mean and selfish human condition.
Time enough to believe
That things don’t make a difference.
And though I understand the world less, I seek the wondrous
And find it in
A child, a seedling, a winged thing
And I think of what would happen
If those renegade words
Were heard by these
Would they never grow
Would they never shine
Would they never hold proudly the breeze in their crowns
The wind way up high
And the enlightenment of a morning by a thousand-fold
Simply from their hopeful existence.
Would they cower defeated
Would their dazzling light quake or
Would they live their lives anyway
Regardless of who holds the stage
Knowing deep within themselves
The difference they make?
He would tell me about the greed that goes unpunished
Land that once was green
About slogans that go unheeded
All the evil he has seen.
So who am I, who understands the world less,
To say anything more about what I believe to be, or
What I hope might become.
Except to say that I pray most of all
That in his quiet moments
He would never think of the battles he fought
The language he conquered
The family he raised
The dreams he once held
And believe that he never
Made a difference to me.