The Soul of a Country*

A Poetic Tribute to #The Amanda Gorman

“A Portrait for Renewal” by Brenda Pinnick, Artist.
©2021 Brenda Pinnick, all rights reserved. https://www.brendapinnick.com/. Used with artist’s permission

I was moved. No. More than that, I was inspired!

Brenda Pinney, also inspired and mesmerized by Amanda’s graceful poetry, put her own talents to work and created this pastel portrait celebrating the hope of which the young poet spoke, and posted it on Twitter.

The minute I saw this pastel rendering of Amanda, I felt the urge to write — in poetic terms —a tribute to honor this young woman who made us forget. With gentle language and a bold vision, for a full 6 minutes, she made us forget the pandemic, the crisis of citizenship among those who are sore losers; the assault on the Capitol, our national symbol; the racial divide that seems to be widening in the face of unequal justice. This is what my heart felt compelled to say:

A Poetic Tribute to #The Amanda Gorman

With poetic fortitude,

and unrehearsed confidence,

you showed us

what we had forgotten:

that poetry is both

grace & strength;

that hurting words

can be transformed

& become healing

words,

if the right heart has created them,

if the right pen or computer has written them,

if the right cadence,

has the right lips to speak them,

words can be healing enough to forecast

the weather of an American spring, a new future for this country —

You gave us that

with your authentic #BlackGirlMagic/#BlackGirlPoetry —

Who knew?

Your words,

such precious droplets

of tiny wisdom pearls

vulnerably exhaled,

written from the heart,

fall gently upon fear, anger & pessimism

to become engraved

upon America’s soul.

You reminded us

and cautioned us:

Democracy is safe…

once more.

Though she is badly bruised

from chaotic encounters

that included

trashing of her national Capitol symbol,

she is healing and in recovery.

We the American people can breathe again —

we — the other American people — can also breathe.

We are the descendants of the many

who endured Black enslavement,

Indigenous genocide, and generations of state-sanctioned

violence, police violence, supported by incarceration or death.

We, who have felt knees on our necks & known bullets in our backs,

We, who live daily with the threat of unwarranted police scrutiny,

and “justifiable” death hanging over us,

while breathing, while walking, while driving,

while watching TV in our own apartments,

while shopping, while birdwatching,

and while just living our lives,

your words remind us:

We can B-R-E-A-T-H-E,

inhale & exhale

once more,

the sweet air of humility & hope —

conjoined twins

that should never have been separated

by surgical political precision

and white supremacy ideologies

that have dominated

this country’s moral compass

far too long.

Our dreams

of an inclusive America

have stagnated for far too long;

we have remained stranded

in democracy’s kitchen (waiting)

for far too long.

You have shown us,

through your own words rich with wonder:

“There is always a light if we are brave enough to see it.

There is always a light if we are brave enough to be it.”[1]

So, if there is truly a season

for everything,

then let this be the season

of hope & humility.

If there is truly a season

for everything,

then let this be the season

of deliberate action & accountability.

For the season of apologies is past;

this cannot be a season of political amnesia;

this cannot be a season of hollow promises;

or of political regression.

We, as a people,

for better and for worse,

must demand a different season.

We have witnessed thousands

of pandemic deaths,

have tolerated hundreds of unjust police acts,

have endured a legal system,

carved out of the fabric of white supremacy,

stretching to forgive white violence against non-whites,

and shrinking as it incarcerates us

Black, Brown, and Native people unforgivingly.

This must be the season of “enough already.”

The year 2021 must be the jumpstart

of a true age of reckoning.

This must be a season

when the democratic soul of this country,

bruised, trampled upon, and misused though it has been and is,

must come out of hiding,

acknowledge its historic & contemporary imperfections,

and strive to be better,

stronger, and lean hard into practicing

what it preaches, not just for some, but for all of us.

This must be a new season — a season for ALL.

Thank you, Amanda for reminding us with your words.

Your poetry was the magic elixir we needed

to open our eyes and recognize that this is the season

when we redeem and reclaim the soul of this country —

this is the moment, the minute, the very second

when we heal the democratic soul of a country….this country,

Our America.

© 2021 Irma McClaurin; All Rights Reserved

*A version of this poem previously appeared in Insight News, January 25, 2021

[1][1] Amanda Gorman, Two lines from “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country.” https://youtu.be/38Rn5WULjmc ; accessed 1/23/2021

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Irma McClaurin

Award-winning author/ anthropologist/consultant & past prez of Shaw U. Forthcoming: JUSTSPEAK: Race, Culture & Politics in America: http://irmamcclaurin.com.