The poetry of kick-the-can in the rain

Refrigerator magnet poetryI hate random stream of consciousness when you can tell the author thinks they’re building to something. It’s so, so tedious. Such was my reaction to officially-described poet Elizabeth Alexander, who recited a piece she composed for the inauguration of the First Black American President. I’ll just note Alexander is a professor at Yale, the alma matter of Bush, Kerry, et al the Skull and Bones secret society.

If there’s anything that makes me crankier than war criminals being hugged, saluted, and wished a bon voyage, it’s applause for crappy poetry.

The awful result begins with noise –a cacophony which Alexander captures with brute mimicry. When she describes uniforms as common as tires and hems, of course I’m going to object. Why not add Coca-cola while you’re pandering to product placement?

Repairing done, Alexander moves on to people of disparate means “trying to make music.” Maybe a tenured African-American studies professor wouldn’t know, no one tries to make music. It doesn’t even take a non-musician to make music, without having to try. Obviously you’re confusing music with poetry.

It may be that Alexander’s challenge was corrupted by the insincerity of the “we have overcome” moment, where a half-black man’s ascent to figurehead is taken as penultimate achievement of the underground railroad. It comforts me to see artistes fall flat when they dip their quills in propaganda.

Here’s the whole drippy thing. Hate the ambiguously half phrase.

Praise song for the day.

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.

Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
This entry was posted in Perspective and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The poetry of kick-the-can in the rain

  1. Avatar Thomas Mc says:

    Yeah, I thought it was about the most boring “poetry” I’d ever heard, and couldn’t believe this was the best they could come up with for such a big event.

  2. Avatar Tony Logan says:

    Love is in the air, Love is everywhere!

    …by Elizabeth Alexander, the Love Goddess

    Beautiful! Just Beautiful. Who can be against LOVE, except those with such little faith? And that would describe us here at Not My Tribe when called to worship this new American Idol. Hope, Faith, CHANGE! Where have I heard this stuff before? Church?

    This is not a new government! It is a new Church! Pastor B Hussein Obama is preaching now! …but watch where the money flows.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *