Poem of the week: On the 2021 Presidential Inauguration

A new poem by Carmen Bugan

The "Field of Flags" on the National Mall as the US Capitol Building ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photograph: Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images

The "Field of Flags" on the National Mall as the US Capitol Building ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photograph: Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images

 

We must begin with an act of trust,
Even if it is born in the pillaged room,
Where lawmakers kneel behind their desks
As the mob tramples the law.

From the senators’ papers
That bear the prints of vandals’ shoes,
From the shards of shattered windows,
From pepper sprayed in policemen’s eyes

And from my daughter’s screams –
“Mommy, are we going to die?” –
From this destruction trust must emerge
And be placed in a better life.

*

Every farmer knows the soil
Will not yield a perennial harvest
From a single planting, and the yield
Of one harvest is a blessing of care.

The bread on the table will not
Knead itself. It takes all day
To keep an orderly house:
Mothers always have known this.

The thinker understands that ideas
Must suffer countless revisions
If they are to stand the test of time:
Not all revolutions begin the same.

The believer has learned that gratitude,
Which is invisible, immeasurable,
And is born of a willingness to love,
Is the strongest bond we share.

*

From my child’s stunned tears,
From the admission that too often
All of us got it all wrong, we must
Begin again to trust – and go on.



Carmen Bugan is author of several collections of poetry, most recently Lilies from America. Her memoir, Burying the Typewriter, was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. She has also written Seamus Heaney and Eastern European Poetry: Poetics of Exile. A book of essays, Poetry and the Language of Oppression, is due this spring from Oxford University Press