Thursday, January 20, 2005

On the Pulse of the Mourning

Iraq, A river of tears, A Tree
Hosts to principles long since departed,
Marked the true American.
Believers, who left small tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our nations floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of a dark age soon to come.

But today, Iraq cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Leave, you may no longer stand upon my
Back and face your manifest destiny,
Seek no haven in my shadow
I will give you no hiding place over here.

You, created by the very things you now love to hate,
have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance
Your mouths spilling words

Your innocent children again armed for slaughter.
Iraq cries out to us today, you may no longer stand on me,
and hide your face.

Across the wall of the world,
A river of tears make a new song,
It says, come rest here by my side.

Each of you an aborted country,
Once friends, we no longer make proud,
Thrusting perpetually under siege
You struggle for profits
We have left collars of waste upon
Your shores, heavy debris upon your chest.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war with us once more. Come,
Not clad in peace and I will sing war songs
And claim that the Creator gave them to me when I and the
Tree and all his people were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across my
Brow and when I knew but told you I still
knew nothing.
The Tears pour down.

There is a true yearning to respond to
The tears and Iraq.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African, the Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They all hear still
The speaking of the Tree.

They hear the first and last of every Tree
Speak to humankind today. Come to me, besides the tears.
Do not plant yourself, nor lose your vision behind the tears.

Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, you
Pawnee, Apache, Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of
Other seekers--desperate for gain,
Starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Arab, the Swede, the German, the Eskimo, the Scot,
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought
Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am that Tree distanced from the River,
Which will not be moved
I the Tree
I am yours--your Passages have been paid
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need

Do not allow the spirit of mourning to enter you this morning. For all of you, today dawns a new day for you.
The history of the past four years, despite its wrenching pain, wretched suffering, backwards steps,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, activeness and collaboration need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
This day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out and upon me
, Iraq, the River of Tears, the Tree and to your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the spirit of the American then.

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, and into
Your brother's face, your country
And say
With hope

Do not let this day be a day simply of mourning. Renew and recommit to a new morning.

This poem was inspired by and borrows from On the Pulse of the Morning, written and delivered by Maya Angelou at the Presidential Inaguaration Ceremony, January 20, 1993 for William Jefferson Clinton.