Mornings in America

Ronald Reagan's inaugural Morning in America did not come with a poem. Which explains a lot, if you ask me.

The real "mornings in America" have been written by the poets, and a few of these have described them on other inauguration days. Watching a recent conversation between Bill Moyers and poet Martín Espada, Espada insisted that people need poetry. They need poetic vision. They need poetic ideas about themselves and about their world.

We need the vision of poetry to deal with the reality of prose that lies beyond morning into the rest of the day.

Maya Angelou's On the Pulse of Morning. (Bill Clinton, 1993)

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

Elizabeth Alexander
's Praise Song for the Day. (Barack Obama, 2009)

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.
In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Richard Blanco's One Today. (Barack Obama, 2013)

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.