I remember listening to Richard Blanco read the words of his poem, “One Today,” during President Obama’s second inauguration in January of 2013. Because of an appointment I had left my family and friends part-way through the inauguration ceremony, where Nerf footballs and laughing children pierced through the formal words intoned from the TV, the squeak of my teeth gritting against opening prayer prayed “in the name of Jesus Christ,” the comments back and forth from adults on the couch (who’s that?), pointing at dignitaries on the screen.
Now I was alone in the car driving — disconnected, anonymous, yet accelerating and braking to the rhythm of the ribbons of traffic in which I was woven. I turned on the radio and his words, nasal, measured, potent, began to fill my car, to fill my ears and my heart until tears began to pour down my face, a testifying a great “yes” to something deeper. The cadences of Blanco’s voice painted a vision of America that was irresistible and unflinching and I found myself, for the first time in a long time, overwhelmed by hope.
Over the past two years I’ve returned to this poem for nourishment, astonished at its continuing power of what it asks of us: to struggle to name hope and to work map it together.
The Rev. Noelle Damico is the Director of Communications for the Presbytery of Hudson River.