Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Could Have Danced, Danced, Danced All Night

Thanks to our new President of the United States, I have been introduced to an exceptional new poet. New to me, anyway. I can’t remember ever learning of a poet through a President. OK. There was Lincoln. O Captain My Captain. But that was not exactly the same. I only just believed that was about Abraham Lincoln. I did not understand about the poet until I heard him sing of himself. Elizabeth Alexander, like Walt Whitman, did not need my discovery. I needed to discover them. Ms. Alexander, chosen to compose a new poem for the Inauguration, used to be a Chicago neighbor of Michelle and Barack Obama, and her father is former Secretary of the Army Clifford Alexander.

A multiple Pulitzer Prize poetry nominee, Ms. Alexander is scheduled to read at Emory University in Atlanta on Feb. 11. She says, “Poetry is not meant to cheer; rather, poetry challenges, and moves us towards transformation. Language distilled and artfully arranged shifts our experience of the words – and the worldviews – we live in.” She is the author of four books of poems, American Sublime, Body of Life, Antebellum Dream Book, and The Venus Hottentot, in the title poem of which, she writes:

Monsieur Cuvier investigates
between my legs, poking, prodding,
sure of his hypothesis.
I half expect him to pull silk
scarves from inside me, paper poppies,
then a rabbit! He complains
at my scent and does not think
I comprehend, but I speak
English. I speak Dutch. I speak
a little French as well, and
languages Monsieur Cuvier
will never know have names.

Two million people were expected in Washington, D.C., for the Inauguration. I settle for watching every cozy minute on my TV, with captions for the hearing impaired. I shopped at the Kroger on North Decatur Road and DeKalb Industrial Way carrying a list: nachos, two ripe avocados, one lemon, and Caffeine-Free Diet Cokes. In the party snack isle, two rambunctious little boys, no older and no more rambunctious than my own grandson, only darker, grabbed bags of chips from the shelf and chased one another, quite a handful for their mother to control. I confess, in times past, I may have averted my eyes, ashamed of my own fearful thoughts at what lay ahead for them. Social problems? Violence? Brushes with the law? Thanks to our new President, now my heart beats like the flutter of wings with the audacity of hope. From rambunctious little boys grow Presidents.

Thanks to our new President, Americans are proud of their country. Not for the first time. Born Again Americans.

Copyright 2009 by William C. Cotter


Tina said...

Oh frabjous day! Caloo callay !
Word fail me, so I have to resort to jabberwocky in my glee. My sister and I will be watching the inauguration on TV from the warmth of out little apartment in Perry.
I look forward to hearing Elizabeth Alexander's poem. Annette introduced me to this remarkable poet. And, later this week, I look forward to hearing that the order has been given to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
Eight years of political and economic malpractice can't be undone in four years, but we're on our way...! Obama's inaugural speech is sure to be remarkable in setting a new tone for the whole country.

tommy said...

Thanks, Bill - positive, reflective, and uplifting. Something about the way you relayed your shopping list, which felt more like a walk down a country lane than a grocery isle, put comfort in all our shoes. However, although little boys, little girls even, can all dream of growing up to become President, there are still massive socio-economic barriers those who grow up without privilege, have to over-come.

Paw Paw Bill said...

Let's get to work.

pat said...

I was able to access "Paw Paw Bill" when I got back to Mobile.

It is with new eyes that I see blacks today. It's not that I didn't know about their struggles---I did. However, I look at them with a burden of sadness that has magically lifted.

Barack Obama's inauguration doesn't wipe all this away---but it has helped.


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