Friday, January 27, 2017

Bearing Witness to the Times: When Hope Is Set in Stone

Some of my writer friends and I have been talking – especially the poets among us. What can we do during these uncertain times? We see before us (and among us) division and discord magnified by the nature of our political system.

The best thing that poets can do is to bear witness to the times articulate what is happening in the moment; speak to the real life experiences of your people.  I am setting myself a goal to write a poem each week that reflects what I see and experience in the life of our nation. I may not post a poem each week, but if I can write one poem a week there will be some chronicle of our sacred/tested/doubtful union.

I hope my efforts will not be polemical, but will rather be a true expression of what is. My goal will be to speak to our experiences of what we see and feel in our community and national life. Hopefully that poetic chronicle will depict the joys, sorrows, celebrations and uncertainties that come forth in our common struggle for a more perfect union.

Today I begin by sharing a poem I wrote last Friday on inauguration day:

When Hope Is Set in Stone
(Thoughts on inauguration day)

Photo by Martin Child / Robert Harding
(Getty Images)

We put our heroes in marble
Thinking we give them honor
When in fact
We do it for ourselves.

Having learned that we can so quickly
Misplace our values
Or set aside our highest ideals,
We chisel from the stone –
Or cast in bronze –
Those images we admire.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial (Wikipedia photo)
        Justice and wisdom
        Come through those marble faces,
        As do fidelity and compassion 
        Because our own hands
        Carved them out
        While we were delighting
        In our better angels.

Martin Luther King Memorial
Photo by Alan Kkotok
Marble faces and bronze statues
Look out on our parades
Whether we march in hope
Or walk in fear and hatred.

If we stop to look back
Into their unchanging eyes
There is a chance
We might remember
Why we set those ideals in polished rock.

Perhaps we will recall
Those better days
When we etched our hopes in stone.

                                 ~ Charles Kinnaird


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