And yet the dawn is ours

Amanda Gorman delivered this stirring poem of hers at Joe Biden’s Inauguration yesterday:

The Hill We Climb

When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We’ve braved the belly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
We seek harm to none and harmony for all
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division
Scripture tells us to envision
that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid
If we’re to live up to our own time
Then victory won’t lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made
That is the promised glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated
In this truth
in this faith we trust
For while we have our eyes on the future
history has its eyes on us
This is the era of just redemption
We feared at its inception
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves
So while once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?
Now we assert
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation
Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright
So let us leave behind a country
better than the one we were left with
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one
We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it

–Updated on Jan. 21 at 7:01 a.m.

Round the oval, round once more

Here’s another poem from How the Hand Behaves:


Our small hands grasped the pencils

as we practiced the circles and loops

in the Palmer Method workbook,

pages lined like music composition sheets.

Intoning the chant                                                                                    

Round the oval, round once more,

Keep your feet flat on the floor…

We bonded the memory of connection

into those muscles and bones.

Over the years, bored at meetings,

I have practiced those circles

Like bedsprings, around the borders of my notebooks.


Juggler by Todd Davidson

Here’s another poem from How the Hand Behaves:

The Juggler

Spinning a tin plate

on a drumstick,

he beckons the little girl:

put up your finger.

He transfers the tin plate from the drumstick

to her finger.

There’s a serious intensity

to his whimsy.

His face red with exertion,

 heat of the summer evening

at the street fair.

Two deep ridges furrow his brow.

His hair short, shoe brush bristly,

wired with gray as

his stubbly beard.

All his brainpower

poured into the juggling.

Hand-eye coordination,

two knife sharp eyes.

At sixty, he maintains his body

like a fine old Volvo –

running smooth.

Introvert who juggles

time, cash, yardwork,


all of that.

Now there’s a lovely silver ball,

tangerine sized, translucent,

which rolls along his hand,

up his forearm,

twisting at his elbow,

down the other side and

back into the palm,

rolling of its own volition.

Juggler by Jay Goldklang

Feel the tree bark

Here’s another poem from How the Hand Behaves:

Go out to the woods and feel the tree bark

Dogwood, elephant grey , mostly smooth,

made small cracks.

Blue Spruce made deep ones, blueish gray,

hinting of moss.

The old Magnolia, intermittently smooth,

southern accent, waiting for those creamy blossoms,

genteel belle with speckled freckles, liver spots

on old lady hands.

Tulip Poplar, popular

for ropy twists, pretzel whorls,

long veins curving around the trunk.

Young White Pine – smooth,

not much to say…

Chokecherry – grey sheen, rings of wrinkles,

horizontal scores.

Tree whose name I do not know,

wearing your cable knit sweater,

gnarled, snarling.


Omnipotence is foreign to the wren

photo by Marianne Roken

Here’s another of my bird poems:

The Wren


is foreign to the wren.

She is all present in her garbling song,

She is all knowing as she carries thin sticks to her nest box

She is all loving in the dawn

She is powerful in clover to the tiny bug

but the crow could swallow her,

and she would fit into my hand.

She is eager, not tense.

She is present, not passed,

She is perfect, not single,

and no helping verbs accompany her.

Her song is a breathtaking flood,

lilting , unlikely OM

to the wrenmother

Photo by Rob Nease

Great Blue

Great Blue Heron photo by Barby Michel

I have written a number of poems featuring birds. Here’s one of them:

Great Blue

Dawn spread a sheet of satin on the glass

canal and lake and towpath in between.

My walk was interrupted by the scene

of his arrival from the marsh to grass.

I stopped stock still in case he wished to pass,

so I could watch him without being seen .

The wide splayed yellow fingers on the green…

How could such stick straw spindles ever last,

supporting elegance of gray blue girth?

Binoculars allowed him in my reach…

But yellow eyes at last discovered me.

A lift of neck and feather, shrug of mirth,

one blase glance and off the grainy beach,

into the air of swallowed memory.

a large, world-sized body change

Remedios Varo Mimesis

I’ve been fascinated by the paintings of Remedios Varo. Here’s a poem I wrote about one of them:

Remedios Varo paints “Mimesis”

Woman melts into the chair,

her neck and face

the chair’s upholstery,

her hands , claws on the chairs claws.

Thighs and knees still there under her skirt,

calves and feet now chair limbs..

Cat watches

from a hole in the floor:

watches the

green scarf rise like a cobra

from the basket by her left claw.

One leg of the basket stand

curls a tendril

around her leg,


melts pliable pincers

around the basket leg

Everything’s moving.

Leg of the chair in the corner

reaches tendrils

into the closets closest drawer.

Green clouds waft in from the cupboard.

Everything migrates across the screen,

Her body molds across the chair,

a large world sized body change.


Orbweaver spider

Here’s another poem from Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky:


Orb weaver,

shy and harmless to humans,

cast herself

down a bare basement bulb,

climbed back up,

cast a parallel line

and a cross wire between.

At the intersection

of leafmeal smell

and cellar damp,

her web is fragile

as old hands,

shiny thin skin

stretched across large blue veins.

I seat myself

in my childhood church

for my uncle’s funeral.

The family stands

at the intersection, oblivious to

the oncoming traffic of wedding, baptism, and suicide.

Funnel weaver,


cellar spider,

your real name is


The religious imagineer

Where the fire and the rose are one

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