Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Today we’ll be voting for president—& other elected offices as well, national, state, & local. Don’t neglect those local elections. They matter a lot. Living in Idaho, my vote for Mr Obama will almost certainly be only symbolic, but my vote for offices like Adams County Sheriff will actually affect the outcome. Of course, I do hope the national elections go in a way that’s best for the country—in my opinion, that would mean a win for the Obama-Biden ticket.
At any rate, as we think about voting for positions of both greater & lesser power (though in many ways the latter may impact us more directly), I’d like to post a poem by the wonderful poet, Gwendolyn Brooks, like Mr Obama a Chicagoan.
Ms Brooks had a long & distinguished writing career, & gathered a number of awards & honors. She was Illinois state poet laureate, & also was Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. In addition, she received an American Academy of Arts & Letters award, a National Endowment for the Arts award, & fellowships from The Academy of American Poets & the Guggenheim Foundation, among other honors. I saw Ms Brooks read at the University of Virginia in the mid 80’s, & I can say it was one of the few poetry readings I felt privileged to attend. Brooks was a master of both free verse & form; I was amused to read recently that she described her style as “folksy narrative.” Ms Brooks was an eloquent voice in U.S. poetry, & served as a voice for the voiceless. It’s important to listen to her as we so intently consider questions of power on this election day.
We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan,
Grayed in, and gray. “Dream” makes a giddy sound, not strong
Like “rent,” “feeding a wife,” “satisfying a man.”
But could a dream send up through onion fumes
Its white and violet, fight with fried potatoes
And yesterday’s garbage ripening in the hall,
Flutter, or sing an aria down these rooms
Even if we were willing to let it in,
Had time to warm it, keep it very clean,
Anticipate a message, let it begin?
We wonder. But not well! not for a minute!
Since Number Five is out of the bathroom now,
We think of lukewarm water, hope to get in it.
Gwendolyn Brooks from A Street in Bronzeville, © 1945 Gwendolyn Brooks
Photo by AP