Authors: Amanda Gorman
What have we done.
Currently our jaw is clamped down,
our shoulders nailed to the ears, bones braced for
brutal battle. By
Think of the next generation
Every day this very ground spoils beneath us, for we are bringing
to all the ends of the Earth the end of all the Earth.
Please believe us
when we say we, too, ache to imagine something new. Reparation lies
not in the land we own, but the very land we owe, the soil & toil we thieved
in from the start. Nothing is a grander summitry than this: water, drinkable;
our air, breathable; birds, built & blurred on a breeze; trees heaving huge sighs
into the heavens; our children, giggling & gilded in grass. Earnest for the first
time, we must earn this turned Earth back. Now we are begged to save it. We
screech with kids who must fix the world because braving it is no longer
The youth will save us
, they say. But even that is its own release.
Our short lives now aimed at the oily-headed monsters that reared
their teeth before we even gave our first wet croak. Generations
of the past order, be our recruits, not our rescues. Oh,
how we want our parents red & restless, as
wild & dying for a difference as
Pandemic, meaning all people.
all demon. Pandora,
Pan, meaning god
of nature. All people
have meaning, are all-
demon, all-gifted. It is in
our divine nature. We now
appreciate that Pandora’s box was a jar
left ajar, a pithos (to tell the mistranslation,
then, is to risk being remembered by its fiction),
meaning a storage container for grain, oil, wheat
& even the dead. We all need places to lay down
our grief. Where else to put it. That vessel held
all plague, all pain & all hope. Don’t panic.
Instead, turn to a companion. What are we
if not the curiosity to open the coffins
we carry, who are we if not
all the things we let
tenseness it show
ed in the air glaring of t
he awful night before the
worst was yet to come—Wash
ington showed the plain dread
of going into something, we knew
not what. We moved about quietly—
grimly & entirely. We had experienced
varied emotions on making the nation,
but none like this. It was almost an imp
ossibility for us to realize as a truth that men
& women mobbed, chased, dragged, beat & killed within the
shadow of the dome of the Capitol, at the very front door of the White House. We had expected to find the people panicky; we found us terrified & afraid. Although some shots had blazed the night, we had reached the determination that we would defend & protect home & that determination rendered us calm. Still there was a tautness wild circulating terrible things—whatever they might be, the people had made up our minds to meet. Darkness had something to do with the things that did happen. The cause of the riots—It was plain that was the plan—call the seeds of a race riot by their action taken upon victims. The Capitol went over—not only local, but national causes of the trouble. Mob violence secure from these years—the promise that would father the same. Washington for perhaps the whole time stood as one struck dumb; a word scared through & through. The whites again took the aggressive. Surprise. Night returned disquieted, but not depressed; worse might have been a riot protected by the law. Run but fight—in defense of our lives. Feel the mark turning the whole
Called for first time for guard duty.
Call this a poem.
Teach us how to walk from war
Like we ever could.
There was this provision: “The walking of white soldiers with colored women or colored soldiers with white women within the limits of this camp is strictly prohibited.”
Whites don’t love mixing,
Race that launched a thousand whips.
Watch us bleed the night.
Epidemic of Spanish Influenza has been raging. We now have 4 men in hospital with it and 7 men are said to have died in one night of it.
We hear men coughing
Then the stiff, loaded silence
Of coughing no more.
God, the symmetry.
Coughin’ into their coffins.
Life takes breath away.
The dawn brushed back a curtain that concealed in its folds a place that really seemed deserving of the
In this one-chance life,
Nothing is ever promised,
Not even the land.
We might stay a while
Cuz they don’ kill us here bad
As they do back home.
Friction between the races. Though the colored troops are not equipped with guns, according to all reports, they behaved themselves most bravely and pluckily against the Marines. It seems that the trouble started in a cafe when a Marine Sgt made some remark which displeased the colored “boys” there and resulted in the Sergeant’s receiving a severe trouncing.
The Sgt then really informed his men and incited a riot. The Marines, it seems, began to promiscuously beat up every soldier of color
that happened to be alone and the colored boy reciprocated. One colored soldier of Co. “A” 506, stabbed by a bayonet in the affray, died at the Camp Hospital about half an hour later. It was reported that 2 or 3 white soldiers were killed, and it is known that there are 3 or 4 white fellows in the hospital with “bad heads,” as Wilbur Halliburton put it. The fracas caused quite a stir.
We are a riot,
Our black leaves some things ink-bright.
Watch us bleed just right.
So, if we must die,
Let it be as nothing less
Than what we
Colder and extremely windy. Post up delinquency records in forenoon. Very busy these days, in fact, for last 5 or 6 mos. Many rumors about returning home ever since armistice was signed.
Our lives end from flu—
One must ask: Have we really
Won this war at all.
There comes to mind in the way of a severe reprimand, this little verse:
“Count that day lost
Whose low descending sun
Views from thy hands
No worthy action done.”
However, this day was not lost, in any sense of the word.
Action is joining
The weaponry of our hands.
Ready, aim higher.
Much colder. Epidemic. said to be the “Flu” raising sand with Co. “A”. Quite a number are sent to the Hospital.
Gulps of our lives,
Gargling from our treasured chests,
Going, going, gone.
Dying is blinding;
It rips from our eyes, leaves them
Stars that won’t stare back.
Quite a cold day; in fact, one of the coldest that I have witnessed in France Co “A” affected more by the Epidemic, is placed under quarantine and a marine guard posted around barracks.
Atlas, too, carried.
At last, something to die for.
Alas, we die fast.
Go to Headquarters (Bn) to work forenoons owing to Headquarters force being under quarantine.
They will keep sleeping,
Hard heads laid for good.
Death is no brief dream.
More than 60 men of Company “A” are in the Camp Hospital with the new malady. Cold. Co. “D” also placed under quarantine.
All we’ve wanted, fled.
Alive: all we want to be,
All we cannot stay.
Still cold, and the epidemic still spreading, especially in Company “A”. Our company dons “Flu” masks as a preventive measure.
This brown-boned garden,
Limp stalks graved in rows.
Man, we feed this earth.
To date there are 116 men of Co. “A” in Hosp., 2 of whom, it is reported, died early this morning. A little snow today, not much.
Call us “All We Have Died For.”
Lord knows it’s enough.
Somewhat warmer. Our company is placed under quarantine and not allowed out of quarters except for duty. 3 or 4 men are found with high fevers.
We’ve lived is its own tall fight.
Memory’s a mess.
Headquarters force having returned, I am relieved from duty at Bn. Hq.
When it’s listened to,
Memory’s a message in
Oops, got the year wrong.
This year is all wrong, all long.
Time takes us on.
“Flu” masks are eliminated, quarantine measures affecting this
company not very strict.
Armistice has come,
The battle not done:
Race riots will smoke our streets,
Our award for prevailing.
Fine is just not free.
We return fighting
If return we do.
This flag call us last.
Honorably discharged. / Buy ticket for Washington, D.C., arriving / there early the / morning of the 6th.
Some have decided to leave,
We have decided to live,
Breathing a warred skin.
Life leaves us gasping.
Ships carry us to U.S.
Our wrists still shackled.
We drop our guns, not our grief.
We make home worth fighting for.
a ship owed the last year
The numb act carried
on this ship follows the ship & the practice of man the utmost that can be stowed
in a vessel of men is men only insurrections are more than rest. The men carried
351 the number of men stated in the plan 190. Difference of 161. Women
boys girls here did carry each other. Dead morning. Height between
decks & platform 2 feet 7 inch a place has to lie & breathe in.
Numb fellow creatures used in their country to anguish
It is said well that a sea is a grave for men
A greater proportion of men perish in ONE year, than all the other years.
The time goes
rip kept carried that
must be univer
sal & lament
ed, a moral
and religious duty which may, without exaggeration, be the greatest on earth.
A house divided cannot stand.
To be divided, then, is to be devastated.
The fact of the matter is that our country seldom counts all who
Matter. This is why red seeps from our flag. We will say again that
Language matters. From the beginning, the colonized are kennings:
African American, Asian American, Native American (apparently
There is no White American). American & adjective, American &
Qualifier. The term split up (l) and dismantled, stripped & striped.
Erasure demands a lifetime of rehearsal. Do you really understand what it is to be this dispensable body.
We recognize the sobs now for the flags they were. The jerk of our heads, as if waking from a dream—or a
Nightmare. You decide.
This is not the nation we built
at most not the nation we’ve known. Know.
This is the nation we’ve sewn. It is our right to weep for the wound we’ve always been. A silent
Shock out of the blue: A hand hung to another or a head pillowed by a shoulder is by far worth more
Than anything we’ve won or wanted. When told we can’t make a difference, we’ll still make a sound.
listen to speak to
the past the pain the pandem
we call out we carry on we arc we move
remembering renaming resisting repairing rousing
our world our world our world our world
like haunts like hulls like humans
We stumbled, sick with shame, groping for each other
in that heaving black. We were mouthless for months.
We could’ve been grinning. We could’ve been grimacing.
We could’ve been glass. & so, we must ask:
Who were we beneath our mask.
Who are we now that it is trashed.
is the youngest presidential inaugural poet in US history. She is a committed advocate for the environment, racial equality, and gender justice. In 2017, Urban Word named her the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate. Gorman’s performance of her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration received critical acclaim and international attention. The special edition of her inaugural poem debuted at #1 on the
New York Times
Wall Street Journal
bestseller lists. She is also the author of the children’s picture book
. After graduating cum laude from Harvard University, she now lives in her hometown of Los