Amanda Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb,” was a highlight of the 2021 inauguration. It inspired both sides of the political spectrum with its lyrical vision “to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.” Who would have thought that poetry could be the force that unites a country and prompts its populace to embrace their better angels. I’m going to give it a try.
Madelyn is five and a half going on six,
Playing in the park with a group of kids
Laughing and giggling, absorbed in their games,
Exultant, spontaneous, and guileless.
The afternoon light is filtered by smiling clouds.
A photographer’s golden hour without scrims or gels
Creating halos around glowing curls and lustrous braids.
Angels at play.
She is free of the madness in the world.
And for that moment in time, watching her,
So am I.
I am eighty-three and a half going on six.
It comes to me that this is the True Nature
That Buddha exhorts us to find.
This pure joy, this innocence, this un-repressed spirit
… so natural among children; and lost to us.
That evening the television is a messenger of hate.
The scenes are savage.
Killing each other for incomprehensible reasons.
Playground transformed into killing field.
How different from watching kids at play,
Their color palate mixed and blurred.
Asked about her playmates my granddaughter answers,
“There was a girl with braids; a boy in a red sweater.”
On the TV screen the men and women with distorted faces
Describe each other in different terms.
In the glare of long-handled flashlights and blinking strobes.
The epithets threaten menace and promise pain.
Kids leave the park and enter the world around them,
Taught about differences they never knew existed.
Each generation producing its jaundiced teachers
And blameless students absorbing the poisonous lessons.
I have a plan to interrupt the cycle.
Forego the fatuous videos of cute cats and dumb pet tricks.
Post in their place the home movies of a million granddads
And a million Madelyn’s playing together in the park.
No viewer can resist; the child within will re-emerge.
We’ll feel the joy of being kids again, playing in the park
With the girl with braids and the boy in the red sweater.
How lovely life is when we play together in harmony.