Authors: Amanda Gorman
We’ve come so far
But we have further to go
In physics, we’re taught that
Displacement & distance differ.
Displacement is merely the space between
Where an object starts & where it ends.
A ______________ B
But distance is the total length
Of the path an object takes:
How far Sisyphus pushes that rock
Up its murky mound,
As well as the route it rolls down again.
A poem & how it runs
Through the body before leaving
Us something slightly more than we were.
Simply put, the rise & fall matter,
Conjoined, not canceling,
Expansion, not erasure.
It is only then that we can understand
How our distance from our worst selves
Is centuries & yet
We have not been displaced.
We have gone further than we’ve come.
A part of ourselves is still barbed
& barbaric, a wired complex of greed.
There is also the element that is
Guided by good,
The way our blood
Is bracketed by veins.
According to legend,
There are two wolves inside us:
One half that must be fought
& one that must be fed.
One that must fall
& one that must never fail.
That wretched summer
We were distempered as dogs,
But to be disturbed is to be moved,
Pushed toward progress.
Our disgust is a measurement
Of distance, a distaste for what was.
It is to grasp that we must never go back.
History is fractured & fractal.
Even when we’ve succumbed,
We have not surrendered.
We might fall.
We might rise,
Distant but undisplaced,
Traveling further than we shift.
What matters most is that
We find each other
In the lit-up space
For my particular grief
Is of so flood-gate and o’er-bearing nature
That it engluts and swallows other sorrows
And it is still itself.
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You will be told this is not a problem,
You will be told now is not the time
For change to begin,
Told that we cannot win.
But the point of protest isn’t winning;
It’s holding fast to the promise of freedom,
Even when fast victory is not promised.
Meaning, we cannot stand up to police
If we cannot cease policing our imagination,
Convincing our communities that this won’t work,
When the work hasn’t even begun,
That this can wait,
When we’ve already waited out a thousand suns.
By now, we understand
That white supremacy
& the despair it demands
Are as destructive as any disease.
So when you’re told that your rage is reactionary,
Remind yourself that rage is our right.
It teaches us it is time to fight.
In the face of injustice,
Not only is anger natural, but necessary,
Because it helps carry us to our destination.
Our goal is never revenge, just restoration.
Not dominance, just dignity.
Not fear, just freedom.
Whether we prevail is not determined
By all the challenges that are present,
But by all the change that is possible.
& though we are unstoppable,
If we ever feel we might fail,
If we be fatigued & frail,
When our fire can no longer be fueled by fury,
We will always be fortified by this faith,
Found in the anthem, the vow:
Black lives matter,
No matter what.
Black lives are worth living,
Worth every struggle.
We owe it to the fallen to fight,
But we owe it to ourselves to never stay kneeling
When the day calls us to stand.
Together, we envision a land that is liberated, not lawless.
We create a future that is free, not flawless.
Again & again, over & over,
We will stride up every mountainside,
Magnanimous & modest.
We will be protected & served
By a force that is honored & honest.
This is more than protest.
It’s a promise.
Riots are red
Violence is blue
We’re sick of dying
How ’bout you
That telltale luminescent green vest—
His bike, cruising leisurely a second before,
Skidded to a ha l t
Like a DJ’s hand on his turntable.
The hunter had made his mark.
Mark the world & make it his.
Though we had nothing to hide,
We performed our innocence for him,
Placed it on full display like a buffet platter.
Here. Feast your eyes on thi
Though we strobed
That we came in peace,
He was already at war.
Because aren’t we all,
We blinked, stunned,
A doe before the rifle.
Didn’t he recognize
Who we were,
Who we was?
A girl just trying to walk home
& live to tell the tale.
In that moment, we desperately want
We have battled hard to be.
& we mean nothing—
Can keep you safe.
Silence least of all.
Speak with this giant life,
For we might never be granted
That same breath again.
A nation’s cold pride will kill,
Choke us on the very spot we shadow.
This is also called Chauvin[ism].
Such pain patrols with pattern,
Practiced, cooled, coded, familiar & un-familial.
Would we crave peace
If we knew what it was.
Our war has changed.
Whoever said we never die
In our dreams obviously
Has never been Black.
Sometimes the whole dusk pulls us down.
Sometimes in the thick
Of night we say our name
Again & again & again
Until it loses all its meaning,
Until its syllables are just
Another dead thing.
This is a rehearsal of sorts.
We stand still,
If just to insist
That we still
Hoodied by a nightmare,
We resurrect ourselves.
Union of unwilling martyrs.
Death is no equalizer,
Death equals nothing,
Makes a 0 of a life.
That is the machinery of this country.
As the regular sprang back,
So did the violence,
Normal in its abnormality,
& so we were un-shuddering,
Our shoulders no longer recalling
How to ripple
After seeing our bodies
R. I. P.
Ravaged In Pandemic.
Rifled Innocent People.
Razed Irreplaceable Persons.
Look alive, everyone.
To ask a question
Is to put our hand up
& ready ourselves for the end.
An answer is an assault,
It can knock you dead.
Can we tell you something?
cracks the response.
O how our beloveds are besieged.
Despite how hard we’ve prayed,
Anyone becomes prey
When they do not
Turn & run.
Is a dying art.
We were brought here
& all we got was this lousy T-shirt,
This drowsy, free hurt.
Taste our tired, unbroken rage.
Nothing we have witnessed
This lifetime surprises us.
Disbelief is a luxury
We never possessed,
A pause that never was.
How many times have we wheezed
A dread to last all night long.
The truth is, one nation under guns.
This republic was bred shady.
Country of guns & germs & steal-
ing land & life.
O say can we see
The blood we stand on,
Shining below us
Like a blood-slick star.
What we might’ve been if only we’d tried.
What we might become, if only we’d listen.
Scars & stripes.
Schools scared to death,
School drills of death.
The truth is, one education under desks,
Stooped low from bullets.
Soon comes the sharp plunge
When we must
Ask where our children
Who else shall we let perish.
Again, language matters.
Children have been taught—
America: without her, democracy fails.
But the truth is:
America without her democracy fails.
We thought our country would burn.
We thought our country would learn.
How to sing
Ash is alkaline, meaning basic.
All too true.
Perhaps to burn is the most basic
Purification there is.
You must transform to survive
Not over our dead body.
What can we call a country that destroys
Itself just because it can?
A nation that would char
Rather than change?
Our only word for this is
There is more than one hue of haunting.
We want to believe that
What we care for can keep.
We want to believe.
The truth is, we are one nation, under ghosts.
The truth is, we are one nation, under fraud.
Tell us, honestly:
Will we ever be who we say.
The world still terrifies us.
We’re told to write what we know.
We write what we’re afraid of.
Only then is our fear
Made small by what we love.
Every second, what we feel
For our people & our planet
Almost brings us to our knees,
A compassion that nearly destroys
Us with its massiveness.
There is no love for or in this world
That doesn’t feel both bright & unbearable,
We built this place,
Knowing it could lead,
Knowing it might not last,
Knowing it might lose.
We take thee to have & to scold,
To love & to change,
In sickness & in health,
Till breath do us part.
How do we pronounce you,
Land & Strife?
Our hands must not lay
Down what they’ve begun.
Young, our country seems,
& stumbling, but striking,
Like a lion learning its legs.
One nation, blunder-pawed.
What we have not done delicately,
At least let us do decently & deliberately,
For there is still a promise here
We have promised here of all.
Some days we believe
But belief. But
It is enough to carry us forward.
We believe we can transform
Without war or wariness.
We are stubborn, not simple.
Strategic, like a general who sees
They may not win this battle.
We’re optimistic, not because we have hope,
But because only by being optimistic can hope
Be ours to have.
Grief depends on love.
What we cherish most shall leave.
But what we’ve changed can last,
Chartered & chosen.
We imagine us
& all we’ll make of one another:
Our faces wet & shimmering
Like an open wound,
Dazed by the flare
Of our new-made selves.
The truth is: one world, wonder-awed,
Raw with revelation.
May such a prayer,