sounding and silence, two

Amanda Gorman '20, the first Youth Poet Laureate of the United States, is pictured in Harvard Yard at Harvard University. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Amanda Gorman ’20, the first Youth Poet Laureate of the United States, is pictured in Harvard Yard at Harvard University. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

sounding and silence, two
a way for home-finding, a listening for the way home


“Each day we go about our business,

walking past each other, catching each other’s

eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is

noise and bramble, thorn and din, each

one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning

a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,

repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,

with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,

with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky.

A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words

spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,

words to consider, reconsider.”

These are the first lines of Elizabeth Alexander’s poem, Praise Song for the Day…the Inaugural Poem written and recited for Barack Obama in 2009.  This was a poem I printed and practiced, so excited to read it out loud to my yoga classes, brimming over with joy to have the opportunity to celebrate our new president and his wave of hope rolling in with words…and not just any words…the words of a poet!

How the poets I love humble me, the weaving they manage of ordinary language; the rhythms they create and the rest beats, the pregnant pauses.

Can we rush, fast-forward then, to only days ago when a bright new star in the constellation of these weavers of light and resonance, stood before us, crowned in scarlet and draped in marigold, to encounter us with words.  Her delicate hands danced in the January air like the trails of sparklers or fairies beginning the reel.

Weren’t we all moved by this display?  The sharing on social media of this girl-woman-warrior-truth-sayer nearly eclipsing the man and woman of the hour.  How she spoke for us all.  How we inhaled finally at her blessing of us, our fears dispelled with each wave of her wrist, each rapping resplendent sound pouring over us.

Yesterday, I printed, again, an inaugural poem and read it to the resting unsuspecting yoginis at the close of a zoom class.  We had traveled the jewel-toned chakras with movement and meditation and we called in that trio of super women, those inauguration Empresses:  Kamala, Jill and Michelle, dressed in their power-punch, royal ensembles!

To utter the words, and to hear them!  To invite them to roll off my own tongue wrapped with the love of my own heart.  To stumble and start back up again.  To notice my own soul skip a beat, to catch my own voice catch, tears welling to brimming over.  You must do this too.  

You must encounter this moment, with silence and sounding.

today to do/be

Go google up that poem, dear one!  The Hill We Climb, by Amanda Gorman is positively everywhere right now, and right-fully so.  Read it a few times through.  Read it silently.  Read it in a whisper.  Read it like a thespian.  Invite her cadence in as you read.(I hear she channeled Lin Manuel Miranda and he approved.)  Read it to someone else, humbly, out loud. 

And, in this way, encounter yourself and an “other”.  

See what comes of this, what little dreams or big ideas arise.  Journal or paint.  I asked my students to envision the clothes they would wear for their inaugural day, their ball! 

If you will be brave enough to see the light
and brave enough to be it…
what will you wear? 
What will you say? 
What new dawning will you welcome home?