21 January 2009

Figuring it out at kitchen tables

I can't let today pass by without writing something about the wonderful inaugural poem and commenting on Dianne Feinstein. Before today, I had never laid eyes on Dianne Feinstein but each time she appeared on the inaugural podium to introduce this person and that, I was impressed by her outgoing personality and a little jealous that we in Australia have no comparable older women role models. I hope I am so together and in control when I'm 75.

And that poem...

Praise song for the day by Elizabeth Alexander

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' 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, boom box, 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, reconsider.

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 thy self."

Others by "first do no harm", or "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 preempt 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.

On this day when 'anything can be made, any sentence begun,' I am pleased to remember this seemingly simple poem as one of its many highlights. I got up at 2am to watch the inauguration, and I am still now thinking of various parts of the ceremony and the words delivered. Hope is a great reward at the end of such a momentous day.



  1. Oh, thank you for posting this poem. I wanted a copy. Yes, it was an amazing moment, a great moment for our country.

  2. Thank you for posting this. I was hoping to see this poem written down before too long -- it captured my imagination at the Inauguration.

    It feels like one big party here. It's been a long time.

  3. I have to also agree it was a awesome poem thanks so much for posting it. Once again another great read from your blog
    Peace and Blessings
    Cheryl...Snatch Joy!

  4. Thank you for posting this... I shed so many tears today... and they are still coming! God Bless

  5. And a momentous day it was! I still get a little teary eyed thinking about how hopeful we all are for our future again!

  6. One Obama message that simply resonates is his call for every citizen to put forth effort in repairing, reuniting, and renewing. I think your blog, Rhonda, is a wonderful example of how we can begin. (Oh - did you hear that Barack's great, great, great grandfather came from a little town in Ireland. They have made special "Brack" bread there for the inaugural occasion. Of course, I'm thinking of your barmbrack bread)

  7. Not everyone felt hope today...

  8. That is only the 4th time in history a poet has read at an inauguration. And, Aretha Franklin and Yo-Yo Ma there as well set the tone for an elegant, solemn, and moving occasion.

    I am also very glad that Obama told the American people...folks, time to put away childish things and instant gratification. Time to get to work, time to realize that with great power and privilege, come great responsibility. Also, the first time in a LONG time, I've heard a president seriously address the important of alternative energy sources; science will play a role in this administration, and not a science for making weaponry. Marvellous.

    Thanks for putting up the poem Rhonda.


    AM of the Bread (American expat living in the UK)

  9. I hope the Amaerican people will not be carried away as we in Britain were by a similar feeling when Tony Blair was elected, only to find ourselves cruelly misled.
    Good luck!

  10. Thank you for sharing in our happiness ~ and hope.

  11. Thanks also from me Rhonda, the poem held me spellbound.I'm thrilled to be able to read it again.

  12. Lets hope this is the start of something GREAT.

  13. So beautiful, and so appropriate for this momentous occasion. I am, for once in my life, full of pride and hope.

  14. Oh I am glad you wrote that poem down... heard snatches of it over children chatting and me saying ssshhh. So, thank you!

  15. I was crying as I listened to the coverage. It is a truly hopeful new time for the US and I am happy to be a part of it!

  16. Rhonda,

    Thank you so much for getting up at 2:00 am to share in some of the excitement and celebration! What a marvelous day, and so long in coming, but it got here and that's all that matters. Let's hope the US can do better now, in all things.

    Your blog is wonderful. I read it everyday. Thank you.


  17. It is a great time for us in America! Thank you for sharing in our celebration :)

  18. I'm so happy that the day was as momentous for you as it was for me. Imagine how we Americans felt. What a great moment for the world.

  19. Got news for you lady, YOU'RE the Australian only-slightly-older role model! You motivate the heck out of us folks across the pond, so I'm certain that motivation extends on your own turf as well. Thank you for this blog, it contains so many wonderful ideas on living a simple life.

  20. It was an amazing day for so many of us! We have our country back and more hope than ever before. The poem said it all.

  21. Winston Churchill said "Americans can always be relied upon to do the right thing......................when all else has failed." After so many mistakes I feel our country is finally waking up and this good man will lead us in a better direction.

  22. I am so proud to be American! I think our new administration has brought hope back to a nation that was sinking into a dark place. The whole day made me want to be a better person.


  23. Diane Feinsteing looked like she was having a ball! Honestly, the joy she exuded yesterday was awesome and if possible , made me even more joyful than I already was. I remember her from when she was mayor of San Francisco where I grew up. I worked in a salon and some of my clients worked at city hall. She lived down the street from the salon and used to walk past and peek in the windows and smile but she never came to get her hair done much to our disappointment. The poem was very touching too, but for some reason, Feinstein will epitomize the day for me forever.

  24. Thanks so much for the poem Rhonda, I have been trying to find it. I was helping at the school on Tuesday and our class of 4 and 5year olds went to the library to watch the inauguration with the other students. The poem was so beautiful! Hugs, Heather (Canada)

  25. I am a poet, and am so pleased this poem spoke to you. Thank you for posting it -- I heard her read it, and was wanting to read the words myself.

    Yesterday was a hopeful day. Let's do what we can to help.

  26. "no comparable older women role models"? Hmmm. Can't let that one pass. I think our Governor General, Quentin Bryce, would have to be a contender. She's 67. And Joan Kirner is past 70 now. I'd say they were pretty feisty older women we could look up to.

  27. You're right, Marg, I'd forgotten about Quentin. She's wonderful. But I've not seen hide nor hair of Joan Kirner for donkey's years. She must be hiding down your neck of the woods.

  28. I am touched that you woke early to watch our inauguration. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings; it means much to me!

  29. Thank you for your post. I took the day off work to watch... I was wondering if you and others around the world would be watching. I am glad you share our happiness and hope.

    cathy c

  30. I too enjoyed this poem. The copy of it here warmed my heart this morning to read
    Perhaps, just perhaps all of these "ills" have a greater gain for us.
    Perhaps the forced humility will bolster those who have piped the tune for so long. It will be those humble who then will become those who are mighty.
    It might just be that perhaps the humble will then lift up the proud.

  31. the inauguration was definitely a teary eye moment.

    i'm not american, not even a US citizen, just a mere US resident (new york), but i feel very proud of the USA for some reason. it was truly an amazing day.

    i am so awed by this great country.


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