Friday, November 02, 2012

Autumn Inaugural by Dana Gioia


There will always be those who reject ceremony,
Who claim that resolution requires no fanfare,
Those who demand the spirit stay fixed
Like a desert saint, fed only on faith,
To worship in no temple but the weather.

There will always be the austere ones
Who mount denial’s shaky ladder
To drape the statues or whitewash the frescoed wall,
As if the still star of painted plaster
Praised creation less than the evening’s original.

And they are right. Symbols betray us.
They are always more or less than what
Is really meant. But shall there be no
Processions by torchlight because we are weak?
What native speech do we share but imperfection?


Praise to the rituals that celebrate change,
Old robes worn for new beginnings,
Solemn protocol where the mutable soul,
Surrounded by ancient experience, grows
Young in the imagination’s white dress.

Because it is not the rituals we honor
But our trust in what they signify, these rites
That honor us as witnesses – whether to watch
Lovers swear loyalty in a careless world
Or a newborn washed with water and oil.

So praise to innocence – impulsive and evergreen –
And let the old be touched by youth’s
Wayward astonishment at learning something new,
And dream of a future so fitting and so just
That our desire will bring it into being.

[This poem has, I think, been the theme of this last year and seemed especially appropriate to post because it's Autumn and yesterday was All Saints Day.]

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