Tag Archives: President Obama

A Poem for a President

Here’s Richard Blanco‘s Inaugural Poem. I like it. People say this about poems of which it’s not necessarily true, but I do think that this is one of those poems that’s better appreciated heard than read. And Mr. Blanco’s that rare poet who does a good job of reading his own poetry. So listen to him read it before you read it to yourself.

I choose to treat it as an invocation of the elements: the Fire of the sun, the Water of the Great Lakes, the Earth of his parents’ working hands, the Air of lessons in classrooms, and the Center of one. And I will use it as a spell: a spell for the one new constellation that we could still name together.

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,

peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces

of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth

across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.

One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story

told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,

each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:

pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,

fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows

begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—

bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,

on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—

to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did

for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,

the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:

equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,

the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,

or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain

the empty desks of twenty children marked absent

today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light

breathing color into stained glass windows,

life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth

onto the steps of our museums and park benches 2

as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk

of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat

and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills

in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands

digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands

as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane

so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains

mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it

through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,

buses launching down avenues, the symphony

of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,

the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling, or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open

for each other all day, saying: hello| shalom,

buon giorno |howdy |namaste |or buenos días

in the language my mother taught me—in every language

spoken into one wind carrying our lives

without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed

their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked

their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:

weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report

for the boss on time, stitching another wound 3

or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,

or the last floor on the Freedom Tower

jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes

tired from work: some days guessing at the weather

of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love

that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother

who knew how to give, or forgiving a father

who couldn’t give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight

of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,

always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon

like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop

and every window, of one country—all of us—

facing the stars

hope—a new constellation

waiting for us to map it,

waiting for us to name it—together

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All Acts of Love and Pleasure Are Rituals of the Goddess


I do love poetry, but there are poems and then there are POEMS.

And there are two Poems that I’ve written into my will to have read at my funeral.

One is Mary Oliver’s When Death Comes.

And the other is The Charge of the Goddess:

Listen to the words of the Great Mother, Who of old was called Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Diana, Arionrhod, Brigid, and by many other names:

Whenever you have need of anything, once a month, and better it be when the Moon is full, you shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me Who is Queen of All the Wise.

You shall be free from slavery, and, as a sign that you be free, you shall be naked in your rites.

Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My Presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth.

For My law is love is unto all beings. Mine is the secret that opens the door of youth, and Mine is the cup of wine of life that is the cauldron of Cerridwen, that is the holy grail of immortality.

I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom and reunion with those that have gone before.

Nor do I demand aught of sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of all things and My love is poured out upon the earth.

Hear the words of the Star Goddess, the dust of Whose feet are the hosts of Heaven, whose body encircles the universe:

I Who am the beauty of the green Earth and the white Moon among the stars and the mysteries of the waters,

I call upon your soul to arise and come unto me.

For I am the soul of Nature that gives life to the universe.

From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.

Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.

Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.

For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.

~ Attributed to Doreen Valiente

As Jason Pitzl-Waters notes over at the Wild Hunt, many Pagan religions actually support gay marriage. Of course we do. “All acts of love and pleasure” obviously includes gay sex, and “Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you,” clearly encompasses gay marriages. (Some of the strongest, most powerful, most compassionate, most honorable, and most reverent unions that I know are between gay friends of mine.) Pagans are (again, generally) polytheists. We worship diversity, difference, multiplicity, “all acts of love and pleasure.”

As a result, as Jason and his commenters explain, a statue or constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage actually discriminates against Pagan religions and causes the government to favor the tenants of one religion (Christianity) over the tenants of other religions (Paganism) — which is PRECISELY what the First Amendment prohibits. The First Amendment bans any “law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . .” And a statue that establishes Christian hatred of gay sex and gay marriage, and that prohibits Pagans from exercising their religious support of gay sex and gay marriage, trespasses against the Constitution.

Our Pagan religion is about being free and naked in our rites. Our religion is about making music and love in the Presence of our Goddess.

And our Goddess is all about ecstasy of the spirit AND about joy on Earth, both of which many of us find in sex, of whatever kind. Her law is love unto ALL beings, with no limitations or restrictions. She is with us from the beginning and She is that which we attain at the end of ALL desire. All desire. (One morning, this past week, G/Son and I had breakfast out on the screen porch. He had blueberries, apple slices, and cheddar cheese, along with some apple cider in his favorite Thomas the Tank Engine cup. Nonna had a poached egg on toast and coffee in her favorite mug, which says, “You pray. I dance naked in the forest.” G/Son, who is now reading EVERYTHING, read my mug and said, “Nonna, that’s funny. Do you dance naked in the forest?” I said, “Yes, sometimes I do. For me, that is a way of praying.” G/Son stopped for a few minutes and thought about that before he said, “Nonna, I think it’s time for me to beat you at Uno. Again.” Kid is a card shark.)

I’d like to see as many “official” Pagan religions as possible specifically adopt support for gay marriage as a part of their catechisms. That would help the ultimate legal argument that North Carolina’s recent constitutional amendment, for example, violates the First Amendment.

As I’ve noted before, I occasionally find that the arc of the moral universe benefits from some of my dulcet urgings for it to “BEND, MOTHERFUCKER, JUST FUCKING BEND, ALREADY.” Today, I believe that it bent a bit. I’ll take whatever I can get.

I’m a big believer in the bend. If I’d been sitting at Mamma Doreen’s shoulder, I’d have added:

From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.

Let the arc of the moral universe bend towards justice and may the bending sometimes not take too long.

Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.

I’m more than willing to beat up on President Obama when he (all too frequently, for my progressive heart) fucks up. Today, I’d like to thank him for (finally, in a politically-calculated way, but I don’t care) doing the right thing.

All acts of love and pleasure are rituals of the Goddess. The government of the United States shouldn’t ban any of them.

Picture found here.