THE POLITICS OF THE MUSE AND THE LIGHT THAT NEVER DIES
In my recent GRITS.com interview with Marlive Harris and Luther E. Vann, I mentioned two poems in connection to presidential candidate Barack Obama. One was Midnight Flight of the Poetry Angels and the other was this poem, The Light That Never Dies:
And now we step
to the rhythm of miracles.
The time of light is upon us
pillowing its weary gray head
upon the pearl-gray shoulders of mountains.
Having known our souls too intimately
grief turns away now
like a false lover burned
The naked sentry
of a single true integrity
salutes the bold unfurling
of dignity’s simple flag.
Fear crawls into the shadows
of the damned and wretched.
Peace blossoms like moonlight.
In the depths of a night
steaming and fetid with blood
men and women stand strong together,
their eyes dancing among the saints,
their hearts singing for the angels.
(From ELEMENTAL The Power of Illuminated Love)
None were more surprised than me when I actually recited The Light That Never Dies because even though I had already started to identify the poem with Obama’s presidential run, I had not realized that I felt so strongly about it until speaking the words. What I neglected to mention during the interview, however, was that The Light That Never Dies was first published in I Made My Boy Out of Poetry, then later in ESSENCE Magazine to commemorate those lives lost on September 11, 2001. My identification of the poem with Obama’s bid for the presidency grew out of respect for the sense of hope and inspiration that he has instilled in so many—even some of those described as his “enemies.”
My posts of the poem Midnight Flight of the Poetry Angels actually feature a quote from Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father. The odd thing is that even though this poem is a direct tribute to Obama and his supporters, the spark of inspiration that gave it life came mostly from Walt Whitman’s masterful poem, “O Captain! My Captain!” Obviously, the two works are very different, in style as well as intent. Whitman’s great elegy was written in honor of the life and death of Abraham Lincoln following the great president’s assassination. My poem, a chain of variations on the haiku, seeks to pay tribute to both Obama’s political daring and the American people’s collective hope for a better future.
The description of Obama as one manifestation of Martin Luther King’s great dream has become commonplace in 2008; but in a lot of ways he is also the inevitable outcome of Lincoln’s uncompromised vision of, and love for, his country. In any event, both of them––and Whitman too for that matter––strike me as channels for a kind of light that never dies, one of beautiful human courage, enduring faith, and steadfast dignity. by Aberjhani
Causes Aberjhani * Supports
I make contributions to a number of charities through my lenses on Squidoo but the following are a few that interest me the most: