All the Difference

She stood at the lectern and said this: “I know there’s something better down the road./We need to find a place where we are safe.” In front of her, two million people. At her back, a soul singer with a fantastic hat, the president-elect, and enough career politicians to eat through a D.C. steakhouse. She said this: “In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,/any thing can be made, any sentence begun./On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,/praise song for walking forward in that light.” It was her largest audience, ever; also the largest for poetry, ever. If we’re wrong, so what. Poet Elizabeth Alexander stood at the lectern and recited verse of hope and love and history and pain, lines she had composed for that particular day, after she got the call to step up and speak, the fourth poet ever to speak at a presidential inauguration, just three removed from Robert Frost. Today, she reads and discusses her life to a smaller but no less austere group of people, maybe even some with a certain sense of humor — Aretha’s hat is available at www.yesufashions.com.
Tue., May 12, 6:30 p.m., 2009

 
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