Maya Angelou (1928- )
Inaugural Poem

                        A Rock, A River, A Tree
                        Hosts to species long since departed,
                        Marked the mastodon.
                        The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
                        Of their sojourn here
                        On our planet floor,
                        Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
                        Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
                        But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly,
                        Come, you may stand upon my
                        Back and face your distant destiny,
                        But seek no haven in my shadow.
                        I will give you no more hiding place down here.
                        You, created only a little lower than
                        The angels, have crouched too long in
                        The bruising darkness,
                        Have lain too long
                        Face down in ignorance.
                        Your mouths spilling words
                        Armed for slaughter.
                        The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
                        But do not hide your face.
                        Across the wall of the world,
                        A River sings a beautiful song,
                        Come rest here by my side.
                        Each of you a bordered country,
                        Delicate and strangely made proud,
                        Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
                        Your armed struggles for profit
                        Have left collars of waste upon
                        My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
                        Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
                        If you will study war no more. Come,
                        Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
                        The Creator gave to me when I and the
                        Tree and the stone were one.
                        Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
                        Brow and when you yet knew you still
                        Knew nothing.
                        The River sings and sings on.
                        There is a true yearning to respond to
                        The singing River and the wise Rock.
                        So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
                        The African and Native American, the Sioux,
                        The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,
                        The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
                        The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
                        The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
                        They hear. They all hear
                        The speaking of the Tree.
                        Today, the first and last of every Tree
                        Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the River.
                        Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River.
                        Each of you, descendant of some passed
                        On traveller, has been paid for.
                        You, who gave me my first name, you
                        Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you
                        Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
                        Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of
                        Other seekers—desperate for gain,
                        Starving for gold.
                        You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot ...
                        You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought
                        Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
                        Praying for a dream.
                        Here, root yourselves beside me.
                        I am the Tree planted by the River,
                        Which will not be moved.
                        I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
                        I am yours—your Passages have been paid.
                        Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
                        For this bright morning dawning for you.
                        History, despite its wrenching pain,
                        Cannot be unlived, and if faced
                        With courage, need not be lived again.
                        Lift up your eyes upon
                        The day breaking for you.
                        Give birth again
                        To the dream.
                        Women, children, men,
                        Take it into the palms of your hands.
                        Mold it into the shape of your most
                        Private need. Sculpt it into
                        The image of your most public self.
                        Lift up your hearts
                        Each new hour holds new chances
                        For new beginnings.
                        Do not be wedded forever
                        To fear, yoked eternally
                        To brutishness.
                        The horizon leans forward,
                        Offering you space to place new steps of change.
                        Here, on the pulse of this fine day
                        You may have the courage
                        To look up and out upon me, the
                        Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
                        No less to Midas than the mendicant.
                        No less to you now than the mastodon then.
                        Here on the pulse of this new day
                        You may have the grace to look up and out
                        And into your sister's eyes, into
                        Your brother's face, your country
                        And say simply
                        Very simply
                        With hope
                        Good morning.

deep and strong and strange