One last little bit of bus blogging business, even though the ride with the comedians is long since over (and never got any funnier). I was going to say something quick about the inaugural poem, which it sounds like everyone hated but I sort of liked. The reason I liked it has nothing to do with its relative merits as a poem—which I'm not really qualified to discuss anyway—and only to do with a scene:
After Obama's inaugural address ended, as people were hustling for the exits trying to beat the huge crowd, there came a thing that many of us (including me) had completely forgotten was coming. This poem, over loudspeakers, for some 1.8 million people. Such a thing doesn't happen often. Still, people fled, and I liked that Elizabeth Alexander seemed undisturbed by this. Maybe that softened me up to appreciate her inaugural offering. But in any case, when it came I enjoyed its references to the primacy of words—the way they create our lives and our politics, the difficulty of getting them just right in a moment that can go many ways (which is every moment, really). Given how badly language was abused by Bush, and how it was often dismissed during the presidential campaign by people trying to cast Obama's oratory as "just words," it was nice to hear this:
We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider...
In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.
Shortly afterward, from behind the Capitol building, a green helicopter rose into that sharp sky and passed right over my head. Inside it: George W. Bush, sealed tight, headed for Texas, his words no longer powerful. It was a nice moment, and the poem, for me, a nice complement.