Do not assume because you’ve just heard one
That there were many poets at presidential inaugurations.
They were few and not every president chose to have one.
Robert Frost did not even say the poem he had prepared
As the glare upon the snow blinded him into silence ;
He recited instead one he knew by heart.
Besides his’, pieces were grandiosely trite, a voice was all there was ;
They were meant for a multitude who would say,
When they sat at diner tables that day :
I heard words and the voice which said these words
Gave them a meaning like that of fog signals rising
From an open mouth in the winter cold.
Poems we should share are the ones of our discomfort.
The ones we read with reluctant agreement,
Those which give us the power to face unpleasant facts together ;
But that’s not what we do at the times of great solemnity,
We believe in free speech as a lunch may be free, and
We look for hope in our own pockets as if we did not need to earn it.
By truthfully dealing with others, earn it ; from someone else, earn it.
Earn it with the currency of questions and not that of straight lines.
And the poem would tell how we were wrong all along,
And it would say how we act without the luxury of knowing.
And then, something worth an inauguration would begin
In this new land of shameful men and women.
Image credit : Lucien Clergue – Jean Cocteau on the set of Orphée