After Inauguration: A Poem for Us All

peopleyes Fireborn
The people yes
The people will live on.
The learning and blundering people will live on.
They will be tricked and sold and again sold
And go back to the nourishing earth for rootholds,
The people so peculiar in renewal and comeback,
You can’t laugh off their capacity to take it.
The people so often sleepy, weary, enigmatic,
is a vast huddle with many units saying:
“I earn my living.
I make enough to get by
and it takes all my time.
If I had more time
I could do more for myself
and maybe for others.
I could read and study
and talk things over
and find out about things.
It takes time.
I wish I had the time.”
Once having marched
Over the margins of animal necessity,
Over the grim line of sheer subsistence
Then man came
To the deeper rituals of his bones,
To the lights lighter than any bones,
To the time for thinking things over,
To the dance, the song, the story,
Or the hours given over to dreaming,
Once having so marched.
Between the finite limitations of the five senses
and the endless yearnings of man for the beyond
the people hold to the humdrum bidding of work and food
while reaching out when it comes their way
for lights beyond the prison of the five senses,
for keepsakes lasting beyond any hunger or death.
This reaching is alive.
The panderers and liars have violated and smutted it.
Yet this reaching is alive yet
for lights and keepsakes.
The people know the salt of the sea
and the strength of the winds
lashing the corners of the earth.
The people take the earth
as a tomb of rest and a cradle of hope.
Who else speaks for the Family of Man?
They are in tune and step
with constellations of universal law.
The people is a polychrome,
a spectrum and a prism
held in a moving monolith,
a console organ of changing themes,
a clavilux of color poems
wherein the sea offers fog
and the fog moves off in rain
and the labrador sunset shortens
to a nocturne of clear stars
serene over the shot spray
of northern lights.
The steel mill sky is alive.
The fire breaks white and zigzag
shot on a gun-metal gloaming.
Man is a long time coming.
Man will yet win.
Brother may yet line up with brother.
This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers.
There are men who can’t be bought.
The fireborn are at home in fire.
The stars make no noise.
You can’t hinder the wind from blowing.
Time is a great teacher.
Who can live without hope?
In the darkness with a great bundle of grief
the people march.
In the night, and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps, the people
“Where to? what next?”
excerpted from “The People, Yes” by American poet Carl Sandburg

Comments always are welcome. Unless otherwise noted, photos are mine. (Click to enlarge)

96 thoughts on “After Inauguration: A Poem for Us All

  1. Sandburg is good. He was from Galesburg IL not far from my hometown.

    Today was hard. I avoided watching and reading the news. I felt ‘In the darkness with a great bundle of grief…’ hanging over. But, I will persist. I will march forward.

    1. I was at work today, but I did listen to the Inauguration. I haven’t missed one since 1956, when Dwight Eisenhower was elected for a second term. Sometimes I’ve been happy with the election results, and sometimes not, but I’ve experienced life in a country where power was seized by a coup, and I much prefer our system.

      I think there are a lot of weary people right now. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of disengagement, a little rest, before taking up the march again.

      1. I agree with you, there, Linda. No system is perfect, but I’m glad to be here. The “in the darkness” part reminded instantly of “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light” and it gives me great hope that Light is ahead.

  2. And so it goes, Linda. I do wish the best for US. What next indeed. The inaugural speech was at least devoid of controversy and somewhat tame compared with his bluster and blistering attacks on all and sundry when he was in election mode.
    I hope he will be reigned in by others. Does Trump enjoy poetry? I doubt it.

  3. Whether President Trump enjoys poetry, I can’t say, but I certainly do. I’ve always enjoyed Sandburg, particularly. He had a gift for capturing American life and character in a way that feels true. He could be amusing, and wrote wonderful children’s stories, but he wasn’t afraid to cast a wholly unsentimental eye on our flaws and shortcomings as a people.

    I wouldn’t have minded at all if they’d thrown a little Sandburg into the ceremony today. But they didn’t, so I decided to add it here.

      1. It does seem a good revision: even given how little I know about Australia. I smiled at the gentle jabs at the monarchy in the article. It may be that changes will come in respect to that, too, over the coming years or decades.

  4. Such a great lovely poem, and appropriate for this day of change. I, too, was struck, not so much by the controversy and grief that has enveloped half the country since the election, but by the mostly peaceful transfer of power, yet again. It moves me…and each time, the incoming President blusters on (they all do it) about how the past regime failed, but the past regime sits there with faint smiles on their face, and then like Obama did today to Trump, congratulate the incoming President with, “Good job.” It’s all part of the crazy game of politics. As crazy as it all is, and especially this year, I still prefer this system. It’s “our” crazy system.

    1. When we talk about inaugural traditions, we often think first of parades, white tie events, and Presidential teas, but what you describe is a tradition, too. Like the letter left for the incoming President by the outgoing, that collection of winners and losers are all together on the dais because they’re part of something greater. Most of them know it; a few might not sense it at all. But what’s important is that, for now, they’ve agreed to be there. I suspect there might even have been one or two thinking, “Well, where now? What next?”

    1. There will be a lot of strong feelings in the coming weeks and months, just as there have been during the campaign. I suppose one of my greatest hopes is that people will become more engaged in ways that will make their will clear to their legislators.

      Being clever on Twitter can be emotionally satisfying, but it doesn’t do a thing to move or block legislation. I’m still old-fashioned enough to believe that attending meetings with Representatives, writing letters, calling, and being generally informed are useful ways to help preserve the Republic.

      1. I’d not heard of the book, Cheri. This blurb from “The Guardian” certainly intrigues. I had to smile when I read,”[Cicero] is a prudish, workaholic, insomniac, nervy lawyer who is too squeamish to attend the gore-splattered games.” That alone could tempt me toward a read.

        From the signs and rhetoric I’ve observed in the streets the past couple of days, I think a refresher course in democracy vs. constitutional republics might be in order, too.

    2. I will say this: after his address to the CIA and today’s press conference, I am not particularly heartened. How things will look in another month — or week — is hard to predict. At any rate, we’re in it together. I’m keeping the poem close, myself.

  5. Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
    even in the leafless winter,
    even in the ashy city.
    I am thinking now
    of grief, and of getting past it;

    I am resolutely blocking out “Moldyvort” and all his blustering buffoonery. I have neither the patience nor the time for it. I have my own line drawn in the sand to step across and my own battle to join. The country got itself into this mess, it can get itself out if it will.

    1. I’d not read that poem, but I found the last lines especially fine:

      I feel my boots
      trying to leave the ground,
      I feel my heart
      pumping hard. I want

      to think again of dangerous and noble things.
      I want to be light and frolicsome.
      I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
      as though I had wings.

      It occurred to me that, as a nation, that’s where we are: earthbound and heavy, on all sides of innumerable issues. There’s not been much that’s noble, of late. Beyond that, what you say about will is critical. It’s not enough to know a problem exists. Being willing to engage in the search for a solution is critical.

  6. “… and the labrador sunset shortens
    to a nocturne of clear stars
    serene over the shot spray
    of northern lights…”
    Carl Sandburg, where else to watch the glorious sun set other than where We shall once again see sunrise?

    1. Helvi might be right, Gerard. You do have a finely-honed ability to, shall we say, find the gray lining in every silver cloud. In the context of your recent post, I couldn’t help smiling at your words,

      Apart from that, as Sandburg says, time is a great teacher. It will be interesting to see what lessons are learned in the coming years.

  7. When I first read this I thought it was one of yours about the events yesterday and it took my breath away! I must admit I am not quite up on American poets as I am of European and Asian ones. Thanks so much for this – I shall have to find out more about Sandberg. – Sol

  8. I watched some of the inauguration yesterday. I’m glad we live in a country where there’s always another day, another chance. Thanks for the poem.

    1. One of the things that age provides is a little perspective. There were members of my family who were certain the end of the world had come when Kennedy was elected President. On the day of his assassination, they shed tears.

      I’m not suggesting that President Trump is going to turn into the equivalent of Lincoln: overnight or otherwise. But in four years, I suspect the Republic still will be standing, and we’ll have that chance to either affirm or reject what the voters hath wrought. In the meantime, we have Sandburg.

    1. Thanks, Bee. Speaking of enjoyment, have you ever read Sandburg’s “Rootabaga Stories”? I think your kids would love them. There’s a link to them two comments up. I still read and enjoy them, myself.

  9. For as long as the United States has existed, the country has been split into two main factions and occasional lesser ones. Think of the contentious election of 1800 between Federalists and Anti-Federalists. No matter who wins a presidential election, roughly half the country comes away happy and the other half unhappy. That’s because people have fundamentally different and often irreconcilable differences in their beliefs about what a country should be and what principles should govern a government. The founders of the United States didn’t want there to be political parties, but political parties quickly emerged. Partisanship seems to be a fundamental trait in most people, and I see no way around it.

    I had to remind myself about the Clavilux, which was one sort of color organ.

    1. Tucked into that page about the color organ was this delightful detail: Mary Hallock-Greenewalt invented and patented “a type of nonlinear rheostat for use in her visual-music instrument, the Sarabet.” Lovers of mood lighting no doubt rejoiced.

      You’re exactly right about the divisions that have existed from the founding of the country. Anyone who thinks we’re less civilized about our elections than previous generations hasn’t spent much time with the broadsides, political cartoons, and jeremiads of the past. The Adams/Jefferson contest managed to sling remarkable amounts of mud even without the aid of social media and the 24/7 news cycle.

      Your comment about fundamentals and irreconcilable differences reminded me of Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind.” I recently read his brief response to Scott Lilienfeld’s propositions for an end to “microaggression training.” He poses an interesting and relevant question:

      “And what will happen to a democracy as students graduate from college and demand that microaggression training be implemented in their workplaces? Might entire democracies be tipped into a state of constantly rising grievance mongering, mistrust, and demands for silencing the other side? If you think American democracy is polarized and dysfunctional in 2016, just wait until the baby boomers have aged out of leadership positions and the country is run by a millennial elite trained at our top schools, which immersed them in a microaggression program for 4 years.”

      1. I hadn’t seen the Lilienfeld article or Haidt’s response to it. I read the response and will read the original, which I’ve located at

        In an e-mail to Haidt last year I suggested a strategy to counter “microaggressions.” Students who don’t believe in such things should nevertheless file so many complaints of having been victims that the campus adjudication system bogs down.

        As you mentioned to Melissa, there’s a lot of money to be made by promoting grievances. Just think how much it must cost companies to offer obligatory “sensitivity training” sessions to their employees.

        1. And the cost isn’t merely in training manuals and guidebooks. There’s lost productivity, too, and the needless fomenting of energy-sapping conflicts among staff.

          I like your suggestion for countering the so-called “microaggressions.” In fact, it amuses me that it would be such a perfect replication of a DDOS attack, in a real-world context. It certainly would have the potential to slow the system.

  10. Steve is right, of course. But Trump is a whole different kettle of fish, beyond Republican vs. Democrat. I’m frightened for our country and for our world. It feels like the grownups have left the building and the school bully has claimed control of the halls. The sobering part of it is, evidently enough people in the country embrace his brutish attitude to have elected him. Oh I know, the Light always prevails, but we’re in for a dark time.

    1. One of the things I’ve noticed over the past few years is an increase of fear-mongering in nearly every area of life. From child-rearing to climate change to gun violence to gluten, we’re overrun by those I like to think of as “profits of doom.” The play on words is intentional, because there are profits to be made by scaring people to death: not to mention power to be gained.

      Fearful people can be more easily bullied, of course, and that sort of behavior is everywhere. One of my friends calls it “anti-social media,” and I’m not sure she’s wrong. I have my own uses for Twitter, but I have no use for much of the behavior there: from boorishness to death threats.

      Perhaps the beginning of a solution is for the grown-ups to come back into the building. I think most of us, whatever our political convictions, are ready for a return to civility: particularly on the part of our elected officials. I know I am.

      1. I like how you put that~profits of doom. Indeed. Like you I long for the pendulum to swing back to civility and maturity but I’m not sure it ever will. There are so many more boors out there than I realized, and they are so very loud.

        1. Just remember: the media aren’t following you or me. They prefer to show the loudest, the most obnoxious, and the clearly unhinged. Their primary purpose is to gain viewers or clicks for their sites, and that stuff sells. They also (intentionally or not) help to harden divisions in society through their reporting. Nearly everything I saw about yesterday’s women’s march was focused on celebrities, foul language, and female anatomy. There may have been more thoughtful reporting, and I didn’t bump into it. Still, the fringe elements were a large part of what the media were concerned with. It’s not helpful.

          1. It really isn’t. I put the blame for the division in our country squarely on the media’s shoulders, and that was before I learned about fake news. They whipped up the anger that led us to having Trump as president, and now they get to have a field day for 4 years. I met people who genuinely hate Clinton, even though they never met her nor have they read anything substantive about her work. They were basing their hatred purely on the headlines.

            1. Clearly, it would help if we talked more to one another, and made an effort to listen to people whose opinions differ from our own. There’s a real temptation to stick with those who support what we already think. It’s certainly more comfortable, but maybe not so helpful.

              And listening doesn’t mean we have to change our beliefs. In the next comment, Robert tried to convince me of the value of the lowly Brussels sprout. I listened. I even tried the cooking method he suggested. Did it change my mind? Nope. But it’s still better than an uninformed decision, and I got a little Dr. Seuss-like ditty out of it.

              Dr. Seuss Is Offered a Sprout

              I’ve had them grilled,
              I’ve had them chilled;
              I’ve had them garlicked, lemoned, dilled.
              I ‘ve tried them with a willing will,
              but now? I must refuse them still!

            2. Not even with green eggs and ham?! I roast mine with red onions. Mmmmmm. But I digress. you are right that listening to each other is vital. I often think people get more entrenched in their views if they feel they are unheard. A glance through today’s headlines was most disheartening, though.

          2. So right about what the media tend to focus on (though there are exceptions, for which I’m always grateful). I attended the march in NYC. We were surrounded by welcoming, open-hearted people of all ages, genders, and colors, peaceable, worried, determined, and, despite it all, holding on to hope. As we passed St. Thomas’s church on 5th Avenue, the carillon played Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. A brace of balloons floated up as a flock of pigeons took to the air and landed again. It was a beautiful blue-sky day, and I have never seen so many women bedecked in hand-knitted hats. (As I flunked knitting 101, I was in especial awe of that.) May the good in us prevail.

            1. This is a fine example of how experience and media reportage can differ. At least in our market, the emphasis has been on Madonna and the other actress whose name I never can remember, foul language (I confess a visceral reaction against certain words), and general obnoxiousness. Quite a different image from the one you present.

              But it’s like framing a photograph, isn’t it? Imagine a beautiful tree with one dead limb drooping down onto a trash-filled lawn. One person takes a photo of the gorgeous crown, ablaze in autumn color, while another takes a photo of the dead limb and trash. It’s the same scene, the same tree — but what different images. There’s some truth in both. Accepting that is the hard work of understanding.

  11. If you read history, you know we’ve had Presidents who were killers, liars, unfaithful to their wives, fathered children with slaves, put ketchup on their eggs, etc., and the USA survived.

    But. This is a bad time. I feel a sense of shame for my country.
    Imagine Sandburg at the JFK inauguration– not that Kennedy was perfect, or even a good leader, but the sense of promise & excitement on that day. Yesterday was not like that.

    1. Ketchup on eggs? Say it isn’t so!

      I’ll admit that the inauguration itself felt to me more like the morning after the New Year’s Eve party than the party itself. After listening to the inaugural ceremony, I had little interest in the parade, the balls, or even what commentary I heard — most of which seemed entirely predictable, no matter the source.

      Part of the problem we face now is that there are millions of people in the nation who feel a sense of pride, and who did find yesterday to be a day of promise and excitement. Many of those people aren’t idiots, or ill-willed, or bent on the destruction of the country. The task is finding a way for people on each side of the political divide (or, more accurately, on all sides of multiple divides) to seek understanding. Not agreement — we don’t have to agree with one another. But a little more understanding and a little less rancor might be good.

      1. I’m always ready to discuss, debate (you know I’m a New Yorker, right?), even, I swear, listen, learn, and try to understand. I don’t think people who disagree with me are automatically idiots or bent on evil. But I will oppose people who lie, slander, shut off debate, close their ears, talk over top of others, show disrespect, and purposefully distort.

        And when I make an omelet or scrambled eggs, you have to taste at least one forkful before you’re allowed to cover them with ketchup. (You probably know this, but it was Nixon with the ketchup – a perfect example of a deeply flawed person, who nonetheless kept his ears and brain open sometimes, and did some amazing stuff. I can let Watergate go, but not the eggs, darn it.)

        1. I didn’t know about Nixon and ketchup. The only Presidential food quirk I remember is George H.W. Bush’s famous dislike for broccoli. I was with him on that one. If you’re President and don’t want to eat the stuff, it’s fine. He helped me get over my embarrassment about despising Brussels sprouts. (How do you feel about eggs and salsa?)

          Your list of opposables is a good one. The only thing I’d add is screaming. More decibels don’t add to the weight of an argument, but certain commentators apparently haven’t gotten the memo. It can take a little time to surface lies, slander, and distortions, but shutting off debate, not listening, talking over others and showing disrespect are obvious. And obnoxious.

          1. Salsa? Dancing with eggs seems problematical, but ok I guess.
            And you might like brussels sprouts if you soak them in garlic oil and spices & broil them. It’s when people steam them to mush they’re nasty. I forgot about Pres.Bush and the broccoli, Another vegetable V.P. Dan Quayle couldn’t spell.
            Linda, I surely agree with you about the screaming.
            Boy, every time I read your column, it sends me running for a dictionary, encyclopedia, and more books, I loved the poem but didn’t know some of the words. Keep up the great work!

            1. Dr. Seuss Is Offered a Sprout

              I’ve had them grilled,
              I’ve had them chilled;
              I’ve had them garlicked, lemoned, dilled.
              I ‘ve tried them with a willing will,
              but now? I must refuse them still!

              I’ll bet it was “clavilux” that got you. When I first read the poem, I didn’t have a clue, either. Here’s a more current version, from New York, of all places. Some of their later productions are more complicated, but I really like this one: especially the iridescence in the bubbles.

  12. Sandburg expresses this beautifully. I think I’d read the entire poem years ago, but it feels especially appropriate for now. As for the politics, I refuse to be drawn into the fray. In my humble opinion, the time for debate was before the election; now is the time for watching, praying, and seeking commonality. We as Americans are better than this, to air our dirty laundry for the world to look at!

    1. It’s one of my favorite poems, Debbie: so appropriate in so many circumstances. It seems to me to be both realistic and hopeful, which always is a good combination.

      Whatever we think of our new President, or the manner of his selection, or the wisdom of the country in selecting him, here we are. I suppose there already are people gearing up for the next election, and for them, focusing on past events will have value. For most of us, the watching, praying, and seeking commonality you mention may be more important.

      I would add working to the list, since it takes work to understand issues, to communicate with legislators, and to express coherent opinions about policies we agree or disagree with. Name calling is easier than communication, of course, but name-calling belongs on the playground.

  13. The poem is great, and so many people can find the connection between their days, this is great. Of course, life goes on… But we all know, a new period started. In my country something fastly changes too and I can’t imagine (maybe also can’t see) the near future… But hope is always in my heart, in our heart… Life goes on, dear Linda, all I can say, Good Luck for USA, and Good Luck for the world too… Thank you, Love, nia

  14. We’ve both been living through some significant changes, haven’t we? I don’t say anything about that on your blog, for reasons you understand. Still, we hope for the best for both countries. Clearly, what happens here will affect you, too. Perhaps there can be good things in the future. Time will tell.

    I’m so happy you like the poem. People are people, after all, and what we hope for isn’t so different. Sandburg knew that. It was no mistake when he was selected to write the introduction for the collection of Edward Steichen photos called “The Family of Man”. Here’s hoping the bonds of the “family” will be strengthened in the future.

  15. Wonderful Sandburg poem. I wonder what Sandburg would think of the carnage going on in Chicago, the subject of one of his best poems about the strength of America from a hardscrabble perspective (, about which the former president seemed to ignore.

    As far as the hand-wringing I read in some of the comments posted here, I’d advise to take heart and give the new president a chance.

    There are real reasons to be overwrought.

    1. The first Press Secretary’s briefing wasn’t all it could have been, that’s for sure. Apart from the topics at hand, dressing down the media and then walking out without taking any questions is either rank stupidity, a stroke of genius, or a pre-planned strategy. I suppose we’ll have to wait to see how that shakes out.

      Still, your point holds. There are things happening in the world and in our own country that are more worthy of hand-wringing than a botched press availability, or the crude behavior exhibited at the women’s march. In the coming months, the greatest challenge may be avoiding distraction. No matter what anyone thinks about our new President, one thing’s clear — he’s a master of using Twitter to change the subject or redirect attention. It could be a useful tool: no question about that. But if it becomes standard operating procedure, I’m a little queasy about potential ramifications.

    1. I think you’re right to phase it as you did, Allen: “lean into the task to be given them.” At this point, even predicting the first hundred days is impossible — let along the next four years. I suspect we haven’t a clue what will be required of us: which may be all to the good.

      Perhaps because we both wrote about trains recently, I remembered this, from Bonhoeffer: “If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.” While we’re waiting to see what happens, it might not be bad to check our boarding passes.

  16. Nice poem. I have to say I didn’t watch the inauguration on TV, probably because I watched so much of the politics involved with the last election. I’m now slowly going back to radio so I prefer to listen to NPR which is so interesting and informative, and I find I can do work around the house without having to watch the tv screen. I hope and pray everything comes out well with the elected president.

    1. I enjoy NPR, too, as well as a couple of locally produced shows that keep me up to date about happenings in the Houston area. I most often listen when I’m at work, and that’s where I was when I listened to the inauguration. Like you, I hope things can settle down, and I hope that the circus-like atmosphere of the campaign can be transformed into wise governance. We’ll see.

  17. Such a fine poem Linda. So much truth in it, none more so than the line: “Time is a great teacher”.
    As a young child I knew only FDR through the Great Depression. I cried when he died, though my parents and extended family gave a sigh of relief, while wondering what the next 4 years would bring. Those years brought more than we could have imagined. All the years subsequently have brought periods of approval for some and not so much for the rest. And yet the Republic survives, babies are born and people die. This too will pass whether we like it or not.

    1. And yet, so much has changed. Our educational system is mediocre at best. Social media is ripping away decency and civility. Truth? Some still hold it in high regard, but spin holds the public square. Celebrity is more celebrated than wisdom. Sigh — pretty soon I’ll be waving my cane and yelling, “You kids get off my lawn!”

      I don’t doubt that the country will survive. But what kind of country it will be still is to be determined. One thing is certain: the nature of America will depend on the people of America. That gives all of us a role in its future.

        1. After watching Kellyanne Conway tell Chuck Todd that Press Secretary Sean Spicer offered “alternate facts” to the public, would you mind if I delete “spin,” and substitute “lies”? “Alternate facts” is a phase I never imagined I’d hear in our public discussions. If I’d had Ms. Conway’s phone number, I might have given her a call to discuss the matter.

          On the other hand, it was amusing to see the Merriam-Webster social media team jump right on it, and provide her with the dictionary definition of a “fact.” That made me laugh.

  18. A lovely and so appropriate poem–thanks for sharing. We’re at an interesting juncture in our history, but it’s remarkable that we can still support the peaceful transfer of power AND voice our discontent and concern. That gives me hope.

    1. Given that disagreement over this or that exists in every family, it’s natural that there should be disagreements in a nation about policies and programs. Perhaps one of our greatest tasks at this point is to find ways to allow disagreement to be what it is, without tipping over into character assassination, violence, destructive inter-agency battles, and so on.

      Honestly, I think there are hints of a hunger for respect, decency, and simple politeness surfacing here and there. One gauge I use is our evening traffic through a couple of choke points. People are allowing other drivers in, leaving space for others ahead of them, and so on. This has not been typical behavior, and I’m seeing it more and more often.

  19. I’m so glad you like it, Dina. It’s one that always refreshes me.

    It seems that many people in both our countries are exhausted and anxious: some because of anger: others, because of fear. Some simply have worked themselves half to death on behalf of a candidate or a cause. Engagement is good, but every now and then it’s worth stepping back and taking time for poetry, or pets, or the people who live around us. We can hope that things “out there” work out in the future, but we can enjoy things working out around us right now!

  20. Thank you for the Sandburg poem! Unlike most here it seems, I’m not wringing my hands, or afraid for our country, we are off on a new adventure with a long history of making things work out…
    I am excited that commonsense, honor, and In God we Trust are in our future as well as our past.

    1. Isn’t it a fine poem? One reason I chose it (apart from my own love for it, and my desire to use it as often as possible) is because I think it has the ability to speak to us all.

      Of course there will be disagreements as we move forward. We’re a divided country: everyone sees that. But it’s also possible that some of those divisions can be overcome by engaged, informed, honorable citizens who are willing to talk to one another, rather than just name-calling. Will it happen? Who knows? As Sandburg says, “brother may yet line up with brother.” I hope we see it.

      I hope your dad’s doing well, too. If I were there, I’d bring him a treat!

  21. Yes. Perfect poem. And we are all so weary. It reminds me of Jr high school drama upon the announcement of cheerleader/class president elections. Scary.

    Just when you think it’s OK to turn things back on, you realize the media is still out there looking for Dirty laundry and carefully wording leading questions to get the response they want to incite outrage. So back to the outdoors (It should be a good week of weather here).

    I know some who say the human race is moving into a de-evoluton process. Due to lack of facts/history/critical thinking skills in education, due to “everyone’s a winner with all getting trophies for breathing,” due to a lack of experience in real competitive sports where some do lose, due to self esteem puffing up, due to manic focus on personal presentation on Facebook/selfies. It’a a new era. Like you, there’s good news and bad news with the new Presidency.

    (What’s with all the men speaking in the women’s march – bad idea, like women can’t come up with ideas and speak for themselves? And why isn’t it an inclusive march? Apparently at least one pro-life group was uninvited to march with them. Once again, can’t we be a group that includes all women’s viewpoints and beliefs while standing for equal pay, opportunities, and respect? Where are the women’s groups protesting human trafficking? How about honor killings – and yes those are happening. What about demeaning imaging of females in music, videos, and performances.Focus on big issues, not just “I hate the guy that won.”)

    But the sky is not falling. Most people have very little difference in their lives. What is important is that the government is transitioned in an orderly fashion in an established pattern. Someone said the change of power at the 3rd inauguration was the most dangerous/critical. Easy to get in power, but never before had anyone handed power over without a problem. That transition of power, the checks and balances of power are almost a miracle – some media outlets didn’t even mention those.

    Hang on to your hat (literally )

    1. I spent most of my time at work yesterday thinking about your comments. By the time I got done thinking, I’d constructed about a fifty thousand word reply, but I’ll try and pare it down a bit.

      Merriam-Webster says “spinmeister” first was used in 1986. Thirty years later, the word’s used less often, but the techniques certainly have been refined. Add in the 24/7 news cycle (which may well be a 24-minute news cycle at this point), the role of social media, and a post-modernist taste for relativism, and chaos is certain. Remember Mr. Dumpty’s words?

      “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
      “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
      “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – – that’s all.”

      And there you have it.

      As for the weekend’s marches, and today’s feminism in general, our experience clearly is of another era. One small example came to mind. When I enrolled in college, in 1964, it was assumed that schools functioning “in loco parentis” was acceptable. We signed in and out of dormitories, had 10 p.m. curfews, and room inspections. Mind you, this wasn’t at some private, denominational school, but at a state institution. (Of course we had our ways of dealing with all that, but those are tales for another time.)

      In an environment like that, a good part of the struggle was for personal freedom: not only the absence of rules, but also the right to make our own decisions and accept responsiblity for our actions. We didn’t want anyone acting as our parent. We wanted the freedom to become adults, wtih all that entails.

      When I watch what’s happening in today’s universities and colleges — and even in some workplaces — I’m alternately bemused, angered, and horrified by an apparent desire of young women to have the government, or academy, or whomever, take on a parental role. The desire for safe spaces — a desire for a return not just to childhood, but even to infancy — is one symptom. I suspect some of us become verklempt over all this because it seems a new generation is deterimined to throw away what we worked so hard to achieve. The good news is that our gains are our own, and no one can take them from us.

      Wouldn’t it make a great title for a paper? “From In Loco Parentis to Just Plain Loco.”

    1. I love Sandburg, too. He’s the perfect poet for so many occasions — good for healing a nation, and good for moving across country! On we go: with a deep breath, and one foot in front of the other.

  22. A most apt choice of poem for the moment . . . striking how much it resonates. If I had to pick one phrase or line as a favorite, it might have to be “This reaching is alive.” The whole last stanza, and those closing questions, “Where to? what next?” are indeed fitting lines for our times. I do wonder if there was anything specific to which he was responding as he wrote the poem.

  23. I’ve used this excerpt several times, and actually have used “this reaching is alive” as the title for one of them. It’s inspirational for me in a way very few things are.

    My goal is to someday read the entire poem. It’s three hundred pages long, and took eight years to write. It was written as a response to experiences of the Depression, and meant as a consolation for the American people. You can read a bit more about it here. I like these lines, too, quoted in the link:

    “The people is the grand canyon of humanity and many many miles across.
    The people is a Pandora’s box, humpty dumpty, a clock of doom and an avalanche when it turns loose.
    The people rest on land and weather, on time and the changing winds.
    The people have come far and can look back and say,
    ‘We will go farther yet’. “

  24. We, led by the people of the United States of A-ME-rica, took the crashing elevator to the bottom. Now we are battered and bruised by the fall but we will push open those doors and climb, step by step, into the light. It may take having things become very bad — paying more, wages dropping, rights not protected. But if we can survive major cataclysm (and I’m not sure about that at the moment) we will climb out from the dark. We must work together as best we can, whether vocally or quietly — but with purpose.

    This poem is wonderful Linda. I thought it might be yours. Well, I suppose that’s not bad company…!

  25. I love the poem so much, I’ve certainly internalized it. Well, at least this portion of it. The whole poem runs to 300 pages, and took eight years to write, and I still haven’t read the whole thing. But I intend to.

    I like your crashing elevator metaphor. Even more, I think you’ve put your finger on one of our problems with your creative take on our country’s name: A-ME-rica. We talk about President Trump’s narcissism, just as some talked about President Obama’s narcissism. What has intrigued me about all this is that what used to characterize individuals now characterizes our society as a whole. You can expect to read a post about this in the medium future, once some of the current furor has calmed down a bit. Suffice it to say I don’t see much difference between Narcissus and his pool, and many of us with our “devices.”

    I do think that the climbing is critical. Sitting and arguing on Facebook or Twitter does no one any good. Using social media as a tool — as for gathering information, or communicating about events like marches — is good. Throwing insults around like kids on a corner playing the dozens, is useless.

    So. On we go. There’s still life to be lived, and sometimes life itself — real life — is the best antidote for what ails us.

    1. I wish I could take credit for A-ME-rica but that goes to Rick. Spot on. And you’re right about devices. I find it interesting that social media tends to make us less social — we think we have a relationship with someone if we “like” or comment on a FB post. An “I’m so sorry” message replaces a sympathy card or phone call or offer to bring a meal when someone has bad news. It is why I resist a smart phone for I know the temptation would be great. I carry my cell (flip phone) when I travel. I may also take the computer (or Rick’s tablet) if I want to check in but I figure if I have it with me, I would be tempted to use it, not just for useful things like a map or settling a dispute but to “check in.”

      A few years ago I was in Stratford and lunching alone. At the table near me they seated two women who immediately pulled out their phones and started looking at them. And I’m thinking, “If I’m at a restaurant with a friend, I want us to talk to each other, not stare at a phone.” OK, soap box done. Pet peeve!

      But social can help us find good information. There is a FB site Becca started called “Still with Her” which in retrospect is probably badly named (should probably be “Not with Him” and it might have more followers) but it has useful information. Phone numbers, scripts for those not comfortable calling legislators, information about marches or action items. THAT is useful. Liking or hating a post isn’t!

      1. Like you, I’m still carrying a flip phone. It does what it’s supposed to do: allow me to make and receive phone calls. And, I can text if I need to, although it’s a little cumbersome.

        The restaurant examples are multiplying, and there was a very interesting article about people who roam museums paying not one bit of attention to the art. As the writer said, their phones see more than they do. It’s becoming more and more common. Just today, I heard about the daycare here in Texas that posted this sign. Thanks for letting me share your soap box — it’s one of my real concerns, too.

  26. Sandburg is one of my favorites. I don’t enjoy all of his work equally, but that’s to be expected. This poem, in its entirety, is 300 pages long. Some day, I’ll read all of it!

    I’m really glad you enjoyed it, Juliet.

  27. We do have some problems, don’t we? And it’s hard to find a way to talk about the whole mess that allows everyone on all sides of various issues to respond. (We’re long past “both sides” of an issue. They’re ever more complicated.)

    I’ve grown weary of the simplistic opponent-bashing that goes on, and the level of sheer nastiness. So, I look for ways to get beneath the surface, to find voices from the past that can help us focus on what’s important. Sandburg certainly had understanding of and sympathy for the people of his time. If nothing else, his work is a reminder that sympathy and understanding are as important as total agreement.

  28. Let us believe that the people, fooled or not, educated or not, together as one or not, shall endure. I do believe that the old days might have had something going for the people that has been lost a bit. As technology allows us to live longer and with more opportunity, for many if not all, for leisure pleasures and easing of burdens, something has been taken from us…the satisfaction of accomplishment and providing for our own.

    I have, more and more, tried to not get political with folks. I’d rather see better how we might get along than argue our differences. I have tired of all or nothing viewpoints. It is painful to hear the exchange of vitriolic opinions of the other. And to that point, I have little to say about the current state of things. I have always preferred the company of nature. Let us hope it is not taken from us.

  29. I think we’ve lost an appreciation for the truth that actions have consequences. I don’t mean that only in a murder-someone-and-land-in-prison sort of way. I’m talking about ruining a cake by setting the oven temperature wrong, or forgetting to feed the goldfish and finding it dead. Or, on the other side of the coin, spending a whole day splitting and carrying wood, and then taking pleasure in the fire, or making valentines: then watching faces light up at the old folks’ home when they’re received.

    We were much more active in past decades. Now, we’re increasingly a nation of gadget-obsessed button-pushers who have grown passive: wanting someone else to entertain us, and waiting for someone else to tell us what to think.

    And you’re right that all-or-nothing can be wearing. So can the nastiness, the crassness, and the violence. Social media clearly is a corrosive force in society, and I’ve nearly weaned myself from it — except for Twitter, where I follow as many meteorologists as journals and literary magazines. A girl can’t have too many forecasts!

    No, nature is a great consoler, and has lessons to teach, as well. Right now, I’m in the process of tracking changes on a large piece of prairie that was subject to a prescribed burn. It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve witnessed. The regrowth is as satisfying as the coming of spring.

  30. Oh my the tree is quite special. It seems to have endured a hard life as it stands out so proudly with the dark hills in the background. Perhaps some of us can identify with the tree. But we will survive just as the tree has continued to live on. I like Carl Sandburg’s poetry. I think he was a wise man.

    1. I took this photo at the Tallgrass Prairie the day I left — just before I took my ride with Gene to distribute the buffalo candy. The dark hills in the background are burned prairie. It had been about two weeks since that burn. If you look very carefully at the enlargement, you can see the grasses beginning to emerge — just a slight flush of green. Nature knows how to regenerate. I think we do, too, although it doesn’t always seem to come so naturally to us — and certainly not to our societies and cultures. But if we look around, I think we can see signs of restoration and regrowth. I’m going to keep looking, anyway!

  31. Interesting coming to this post more than a month after the event. I am not sure what I would have said at the time of posting but I know that for the first few weeks of the new Presidency I would greet each day with the question, “I wonder what Trump has done now?” And, each day, I didn’t like the answer to my question. It’s good that you and so many of your commenters feel confident that the American people will be okay. If you are okay, then maybe the rest of us will be too. The difficulty is that what the US President does/says affects non-Americans, yet we have no voting rights. We have to rely on the choices of US citizens to keep us safe. I wish it weren’t so.

  32. Of course, what the President does affects those who didn’t vote for him, too — whether they chose another candidate, or simply didn’t vote. And believe me, you’re not alone in asking the daily question: “Now, what?”

    I didn’t expect the level of rancor and bitterness to subside immediately after the election, but I did hope for some moderation of tone. Unfortunately, we seem to have hardened in our divisions, and there are far too many people encouraging that division. At this point, I wouldn’t presume to predict what will happen, but I still would choose this poem as my longer-term view of things.

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