Because I couldn’t find the poem on Google, I transcribed the incredible poem read by the youngest Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman at the Biden/Harris Inauguration today. You can listen to her here or read it below.
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 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 justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we 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’re striving to form a union
That is perfect.
We are striving to forge our 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 for 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 lighten the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb,
If only we dare it,
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 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 it 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 author hope and laughter to ourselves
So…while once we asked “How can 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 in my bronze pounded chest
We will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one
We will rise from the gold land hills
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 sun-baked South
We will build, reconcile and recover
In every known nook of our nation and every corner
Called our country
Our people diverse and beautiful
Will emerged, battered and beautiful,
When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame, unafraid,
The new dawn blooms, if we free it,
For there was always light
If only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it.
A Four Year Abusive Relationship With Our President Is Finally Over. We Can Finally Breathe.
This poem- and the beautiful energy of this young Black woman- touched me deeply and began to help us all heal. I woke up this morning awash with emotion and tears, feeling all the feels. When I turned inwards to explore my inner world during my regular morning Internal Family Systems meditation, I found a trailhead to my past. The emotions in my body took me back twenty years to the day I called the police after the partner who blackened my eye and bruised my bicep broke into my new home after I left him. I remember the day I realized that the threat of jail time for breaking and entering worked. He slinked away, I never had to file the restraining order, and I never saw him again.
It took me weeks to realize the gaslighting, domination, verbal abuse, intimidation, insults, and threats of violence were finally over. When I finally felt safe, I broke down in the arms of my father, who had moved in with me to protect me. That mix of relief, freedom, hope, and expansiveness is what evoked tears in me this morning.
I realized a while ago that those of us who have had abusive relationships with parents or lovers or bosses or other oppressors have all had four years of PTSD, with our President lighting up all of our memories of abuse and flashing us back to those trauma-induced emotions. But it’s finally over, everyone. Four years of an abusive relationship with the President who is supposed to care about our country and protect us- well, Hallelujah- he is finally slinking away. I feel like I can finally take a breath after a year that took our breath away with Covid, George Floyd, wildfire smoke, and the moment by moment terror of waiting for the other shoe to drop from our abusive Commander In Chief.
I am not expecting that our new administration will be any kind of Savior. I know there is still a corporatocracy that Biden/Harris will suck up and sell out to. I know that many people in poverty on both sides of the political divide watch our government sell out to corporate interests while their small towns and financial security blow away like dust in the wind. I know many on the right feel as abused by the Democratic party as those on the left have felt for the past four years. But for one day, I’m going to put all that aside and allow myself the tears, grief, anger, joy, relief, and hope that comes from marking the end of the most obvious and traumatic tyranny in the White House our country has ever seen.
At least for today, I am going to indulge my relief and celebrate with the half of my country that is happy the past four years of bullying, gaslighting, tyranny, and abuse is finally over. Today will be the last day that there has never been a woman as Vice President, much less a woman of color. Today is the day Trump finally crawls back to his mansion, disgraced. Today, assuming there is no shocking violence, we celebrate the success of democracy, as flawed as it may be. Today, we can feel hope that a more rigorous and organized mass vaccination plan begins so we can hug each other again. Today, tyrannized immigrants can begin a path to citizenship. Today, we move towards rejoining the Paris Agreement.
Today, we grieve four years of terrible losses. Today, we pray that our government can come together to serve all ordinary Americans- on both sides of the political divide- to help us recover from four years of hell. It has yet to be seen whether our government can cooperate enough to create the sweeping reforms we need in all aspects of American society by addressing climate crisis, controlling the pandemic, restraining capitalism, curbing corruption, healing health care, ending systemic racism, democratizing opportunity, reforming education, cleaning up politics, and so many other necessary changes.
But for one day, I’m planning to put my skepticism aside and enjoy the inauguration. Today, we welcome new possibility, fresh hope, and all the feels that come with stepping into a new mystery together. We need a day of celebration and hope. I’ll see you on the other side of this historical day.
To everyone else who has survived an abusive relationship in the past and endured PTSD flashbacks because of this President- especially my sister and other BIPOC sisters- I raise my coffee mug to you. We did it. We survived. We can do hard things with great love. I keep listening to the Akon song Freedom – and we boogie it all off.
Tomorrow, we do our trauma work. We begin our recovery. We do not bypass the abuse we’ve endured. In the words of Bernice King, “Acknowledgment and repentance, accountability, and justice come before healing and unity.”
But today, for one day, we celebrate. Happy Inauguration Day America!