It was January 20, 2021. The inauguration of Joe Biden was just beginning and I had recess duty for my class of fourth graders in Colorado. As we walked out to the playground that cold, sunny morning, I hit the play button on my cell phone and was transfixed. Your voice came across the air in confident, lilting phrases. I held the phone to my ear to better catch your inauguration poem, “The Hill We Climb.” I had one eye on the students playing and the rest of me was captivated by you. I felt my chest rise in agreement with your words, my heart swell in union with your passion, my spirit soar with your hope.
I was filled with equal parts awe and wonderment. Who are you and where did you come from? How did you write this incredible poem that made me feel like you were inside my head, my heart while you were delivering it? How could you be so powerful and accomplished at such a young age?
My students circled me, wanting to hear, too. So I held out my cell phone with your voice as a gift to them of their future. Of our shared future. Of our present. It was a powerful moment.
I will admit it unabashedly – I cried more than a few tears during your inaugural poem.
I would play the poem for them again, inside, after recess. We would talk about it at length then, and later in our official poetry unit. Taking it apart. Studying the literary devices used, the rhythm, meter, rhyming, alliteration, metaphor, imagery. Talking about the meaning, our connections, our appreciation.
But for that moment, we simply met you. In your magical, shining moment. And you lifted us up.
Jennifer Gurney lives in Colorado where she teaches, paints, writes and hikes. She is a newly published poet, at age 59. Jennifer has also published commentary about poetry and poetry-related essays. During the pandemic she joined the online poetry community of The Daily Haiku. Poetry has been a lifeline.