Elizabeth Alexander: “Praise Song for the Day”


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, 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 thyself”
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!

Elizabeth Alexander


~ by matt on 21 January 2009.

3 Responses to “Elizabeth Alexander: “Praise Song for the Day””

  1. i like it – and she read it in a very impressive way.

  2. Touch this with a 10 foot pole, all you live simultaneous interpreters out there…

    Shame on the French public television transmission! Every single station switched over to commentaries just before the end of the ceremony, when Elizabeth Alexander read her poem composed for the occasion, with the notable exception of TF1 who only came back to the live translation just afterwards to translate reverend Joseph E. Lowery’s closing benediction.

    From the part of a country where cultural exception is rule, and author’s rights originate, I am disappointed. After surfing the remote control in vain, I am now surfing the internet, trying to find the transcript for these stolen moments, (incriminated one minute video attached from i-Tele).

    Comments and links welcome, thanks in advance.

    Just found you here – thanks for the being the first link up!

  3. Colbert had a nice interview with Ms Alexander here.

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Natalie E. Illum...

is a poet, performer and disability activist. Bring her stumbling to your city.

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