Thursday, March 26, 2009

untitled 09

untitled 09 (ariana huffington's powder room: self-portrait of iphone with owner)

This post isn't much of a cause or much of an action, but it does fall flat in the middle of what most undergrads lovingly refer to as 'spring break'. Right now, it's a place holder - like Brad Pitt's pink project in New Orleans; it's a promise that I will be back after the ACSA conference in Portland to write more about stats and its relationship in particular to birth control, infrastructure, religious freedoms, and books. Things are most definitely brewing - stay tuned.

The image is merely proof (as images are) that my iphone and I somehow found ourselves in Ariana Huffington's powder room last week (how crazy is that?). A guest of my Obama group friend, Andrew, we had an opportunity to hear Elizabeth Alexander recite her inaugural poem, eat mini grilled cheeses, and marvel over the sheer quantity of personal portraits that surrounded us in the Brentwood-based villa. Want a signed hard copy of the poem itself? I might just have an extra. Leave a comment; let me know.

As a nod to the honorary event, here is the text of the poem. It felt a little bit like being at the inauguration, only smaller, warmer, and unfortunately Obama-free (though he was in LA, and we were kind of hoping he might come by).

You could say, I imagine, that poetry is actually its own kind of cause, and this one, prosaic as the phrases might be, certainly endorses its own call to action.

So, there we have it - the cause this week is poetry, and to 'praise song for the day', this day, this spring, this week.

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.


randall crane said...

A signed copy of that wonderful poem, handed over by one who heard it direct from the poet, for my obama-fixated 16-year old, would be hufftabulous. Or I'll settle for this example of how the iphone camera is often more than good enough.

lcsamuels said...

You win! My parents who emailed me directly and your 16 year old with an Obama fixation. Congrats!