There was a moment at President Biden’s inauguration when Senator Roy Blunt, garbed in black, stepped back from the podium after introducing the next speaker. The camera panned out to the blue and red-flanked rug, Vice President Harris’s stunning purple and someone’s splash of pink scarf and then—yellow. Yellow, exactly what we needed. Amanda Gorman’s favourite colour, in the form of a winter coat. There is a reason the author of Revelation envisioned a heaven soaked in gold.
Then this young woman, dressed bright as a canary, stepped up to the microphone, teeth to the world, gold in her hair and hanging from her ears, and asked a question so familiar: “When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” And there went her hands, lifting the question up before settling it back down with her fingers.
As she went on, Ms. Gorman’s words brought something good and true to life, letting us release the breath we’ve been holding while “we’ve braved the belly of the beast.” She reads these words and I’m following her and letting the tension break because of the alliteration. I need that alliteration. I need it to pull the bravery she sees through the belly of a national future that so often still feels like a beast.
Named the first ever national youth poet laureate in 2017, Gorman, who is also a member of St. Brigid’s Catholic Church in Los Angeles, was the sixth poet to recite for the nation at a presidential inauguration. She delivered a performance that made us believe in the beauty of our future, precisely because of the poem’s own beauty. Her work speaks of God—even shines a light on God—simply because it is beautiful.
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Erika Rasmussen is a Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., Postgraduate Media Fellow at America.
With thanks to America Magazine and Erika Rasmussen, where this article originally appeared.