“Hope drowned in shadows
One of the political jabs with which critics of Barack Obama used to attack him during his first run for the U.S. presidency was that his proposed platform was more rhetorical poetry than political substance. That charge has been largely reversed at this 2013 beginning of his hard-won second term.
The cry now––mostly from those frequently described as extremist conservatives, Tea Partiers, and the “New Plutocrats”–– is that the poet in President Obama has allowed power to exert its corruptive influence. It has, they charge, caused him to imagine that he is “a king” in a country where monarchy is not the law of the land. The supposed evidence is his successful passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and proposals submitted to Congress just last week to help end the loss of American lives due to gun violence.
As it turned out, the very quality for which Mr. Obama was ridiculed––his profound eloquence in print as well as in person–– has become one of his greatest strengths. It has also by extension become one of America’s greatest strengths. Again, as it turned out, his poetry was filled with a great deal of substance capable of steering the United States through its greatest economic devastation since the Great Depression, restoring the country’s status as a leader in world affairs, excelling when necessary in the role of commander in chief, and exhibiting extraordinary compassion for those battered by disaster. Poetry, it seems, had helped provide him with uncommon communication skills and an empathetic manner that has allowed him to simultaneously lead, steer, and guide.
Leadership and Followership
His achievements of course have not been solo events. Teams of very devoted individuals and the American people themselves have made the different manifestations of political visions possible in an extremely volatile––some might say antagonistic––climate. The poem below, Midnight Flight of the Poetry Angels, was written during the presidential campaign of 2008 as much to honor those whose followership have since made Mr. Obama’s presidency possible as it was to honor the man himself. It is presented here, in acknowledgment of the 57th inauguration, as it was when shared three months before he first won the office, with an introductory quote from Dreams from My Father:
Midnight Flight of the Poetry Angels
(by Aberjhani from The River of Winged Dreams)
“It was a savage scene, and we stayed there for a long time, watching life feed on itself, the silence interrupted only by the crack of bone or the rush of wind, or the hard thump of a vulture’s wings as it strained to lift itself into the current, until it finally found the higher air and those long and graceful wings became motionless and still like the rest.”
––Barack Obama, from Dreams from My Father
What once was blood streaks
your face with indigo tears
and lush midnight tunes.
Holding silver hands,
you compose a Tao of art
that heals broken wings.
Lips glow violet,
open to reveal tongues bright
with pearl metaphors.
A speckled halo
handcuffs the world’s best liars
to soft dark passions.
Music’s sweet labors
give birth to a springtime rush
of sighs rippling dreams.
Out of your mouth rhymes
blossom like warm paradigms
already in flight.
Golden, your songs,
and noble; spinning stars on
their axis of love.
On faith’s battered back
calm eyes etch prayers that cool
a nation’s hot rage.
Inside these scarred hearts
genius flows incandescent
waves of truth made real.
Hope drowned in shadows
emerges fiercely splendid––
(from The River of Winged Dreams)
co-author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
and ELEMENTAL The Power of Illuminated Love
Contemporary award-winning author of classically-styled works in history, poetry, creative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and journalism.