It's been a couple days, but I thought I'd post Washington State poet laureate Kathleen Flenniken's inaugural poem for Ed Murray. After Obama's inauguration a couple years back, Cate McGehee wrote in The Stranger about Obama inaugural poet Richard Blanco's failure of a poem, the difficulty of inaugural poems, and how both poems read for Obama's presidential inaugurations could easily have been titled "A List of Things People Do."
Flenniken's poem is also a list—is that the only construction possible for inaugural poems?—and while I don't love it, it's definitely interesting that she name-checks John T. Williams and homelessness and Big Bertha being stuck, along with sweeter things like gay marriage and, um, Frangos.
I guess I have mixed feelings. Here's how it starts:
Views of Seattle
For the inauguration of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, January 6, 2014
I spied with my little eye a bridge, a tunnel, then sky
and my earliest views of Seattle,
the ferry and sound, mythic Olympics,
Smith Tower and there, the Space Needle,
making a child’s heart beat faster
and acquainting us with the terrifying vertical,
a lovely city dressed in grey, asking us to fall,
a revolving restaurant where a matchbook
set on a window sill waits for your slow return.
Bobo the Gorilla, Totem Poles and “skid road,”
bums, we called them, drinking fortified wine.
Frango-mint milkshakes at Fredrick & Nelson.
Jelly fish in the oily black waters of Elliott Bay
and the seagulls circling and dipping to catch
the Ivar’s French fries we threw.
When does a city become your own?
In a “Duck” bus? On an underground tour?
When you start that job you worked so hard
to find downtown? (Mr. Mayor?)
Finding you can’t afford to drive to work,
not with parking, and the Mercer mess,
I-5 South on a brilliant day, something called
a “sunshine slowdown” on the freeway,
which has to do with the blinding beauty
of our mountain, as slow as a slowdown for rain,
a slowdown for snow on our treacherous icy hills.
(Mr. Mayor, just don’t plow your own street first.)
You can read the whole 1,010-word thing here.
Does it work? Does it mean anything? Is there a special-occasion political poem structure that isn't just Here Is a List of Things the Audience May Be Moved by or, at the Very Least, Recognize and Find Charming?