The America We Want To Be
The Wheel of History
It is a blustery day in Austin, Texas
where the Bush stronghold, thanks to redistricting,
held ground even though my home town
and county went Dem 2:1.
There is no good reason to ask why
tears came to my eyes when Obama took the stage
in Grant Park, or maybe there is.
I grew up on the North Shore about 40 miles
from Chicago, which is my mother city.
Yesterday — as I made calls to people in Pennsylvania,
where I was born, where my family lived for decades,
to Indiana, where I went to college one year,
to New Mexico where J's family kept a vacation home,
to Colorado where J and I slept alongside
Mineral Creek one June evening and woke up
covered in ice — America was familiar to me again,
felt like home.
An Hispanic woman in Albuquerque told me she
was a Republican but would no way vote for that
paper doll McCain picked. She was Obama all the
way and so was everyone in her neighborhood.
She told me she was 73 years old and lived
alone, but if he won she was going to down
two beers to celebrate.
In Ohio a young man answered the phone
and called his mom. As I talked to her, he
and what sounded like ten friends -- but could have
been just a brother or two -- hooted and cheered
and shouted: Obama! Obama! Obama!
The promise of the Civil Rights movement,
the affirmation of the American Dream,
the courage of a single man standing like a tuning fork
before untold thousands everywhere he goes
in a country where anyone can pick up a sophisticated
sniper weapon —
these are all a good excuse for tears,
tears of joy, relief, tears in Spanish, Hindi,
Arabic, a vast sigh of relief all over the world.
D. C., where I followed Jesse Jackson around
in 1968, went 93% for Obama and danced
in the streets in front of the Bush White House.
In Austin in February 07 when 20,000 people
stood in the rain for more than an hour listening
to his Wheel of History speech there was zero
security — just a man telling a story,
an American story.
As I walked, several years ago, from Powells to
Seminary Bookstore in Hyde Park I couldn't shake
the feeling that I was taking deep steps —
through my own history, alongside
that beautiful lake I call Mother Blue —
deep steps on soil that reminds me water and
earth, wind and sky, are connected.
I haven't recognized the America I came from
in our government for decades, maybe ever.
It is an America of achievement and optimism,
a can-do America, a gathering of neighborhoods
and communities, a kind of honor and sense
that comes from the circle of the family.
Casting aside the cloak of cynicism
I have dragged around my entire adult life,
and at the risk of uttering blatant optimism —
Last night I saw
the America we want to be.
©Susan Bright, 2008
Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-ninety books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.
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