Sunday, January 18, 2009


“We’ve got to make this world a better place”, the song says. Today we are following the instructions. “I know we can make it. I know darn well”. Here we are making order, making peace. Here we are preparing the house for the invited guests. Tomorrow a new family will occupy the White House. Tomorrow a poet will read to the nation and the world on the Capitol steps. Tomorrow we will return to our lives changed, empowered, moving ahead with confidence.

“We are on earth a little space/to learn to bear the beams of love,” Blake wrote. “Raise high the roofbeams, Carpenter” Salinger told us. Let us raise our arms, friends. Our hearts. We have a garden. It needs water, fruit rinds, tubers, onion peels. And there is a copse nearby. Let that copse alone. Let us live in harmony with other fish ambling about on land. Let us glide, swim, waddle, and walk to walk; throw the car keys into the back drawer.

We shall move ahead with confidence. But let us not forget the errors made in our name. Let us set up a vigil at Constitution Avenue, at the Lincoln Memorial. Let us take back our streets.

First Street: a pact, friends.

Here are the details. Love our neighbor, whether human, fish, bird, worm, scorpion.

Love winds, sky, oceans. Let us learn how to recycle, how to cut down, trim. Let us bonsai our lives, rock garden them and put a pool in the middle. Let us adopt the Mexican custom of a fountain in every home.

Second Street:

Let us cross the borders, tackle difficult, painful wars that murder our spirit. Let us not be silent before them even if our only recourses are the letter to the editor and the vote. Let us not underestimate the power of that vote.

Third Street:

Care for our families. Inscribe the kids into Model UN. Read a poem a day. Say prayers. Sing. Dance for no particular reason and don’t always go to bed at 10. Set up patterns. Then muddy them up. Teach the children to live in the grey areas, to breathe powerfully and straight into the fog and darkness so their breaths will clear the way.

Fourth Street:

Love your neighbor. Cross over the Falls Road. Into Soweto. Downtown East Side. Remove the gates, friends, to the gated communities. Install electronic sensors instead. Yet, how can one tell the movement of one who does not belong, who comes to rob and pillage? Not easy ….Security in the midst of prosperity and poverty. Haves and Have nots. But let’s work to fashioning a world that runs on the word, the bond of man, the trust of Abel in his brother even if Abel will, and must, be killed.

Fifth Street….and I will stop here. There are five acts in the tragedy, in the comedy as well

I have cited Blake already on the beams of love. How about Ginsberg?

Hey Father Death,
I'm flying home
Hey poor man,
you're all alone
Hey old daddy,
I know where I'm going

Where are we going? What is the fifth street or the fiftieth? I am scared but am not yet straight. I am scared but I am taking omega 3, bitter melon and milk thistle. I am scared but I am in love. I am scared but I have my health and a healthy imagination. I am scared but I have a job. And I am grateful. Today I give thanks to Martin Luther King. To my friends. To this evening before the new morning in the United States, everywhere.

--Indran Amirthanayagam c)2009