Anne Waldman, experimental American poet and co-founder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University, was invited to read a poem at the swearing-in ceremony and historic inauguration of Colorado Governor Jared Polis. Waldman wrote the poem, The Beautiful Negative Ions of Governance, specifically for the occasion.
You can watch Waldman’s poem (starting at about the 36:50 mark), read the full poem below, and explore more of our Creative Writing & Poetics master’s degrees here.
The Beautiful Negative Ions of Governance
Poem by Anne Waldman for the Swearing-in Ceremony and Historic Inauguration of Jared Polis, January 8, 2019
What keeps us awake and alive?
Spirit of a new beginning!
Poetry loves contradictions
Walt Whitman said “the United States themselves
Are essentially the greatest poem”
Let’s improve the poem, Colorado!
Allen Ginsberg wrote:
“Denver! Denver! we’ll return roaring
Across the City and County Building lawn
Which catches the pure
Emerald flame streaming in the wake of our auto!”
But let’s not play havoc with the lawn!
This is the antithesis reality, spirit of a new beginning
And “negative ions” always a linguistic challenge, which are
In fact beneficial, marvelous antidotes to toxicity
Negative ions, abundant in nature, crowded in around waterfalls,
Widespread in forests and mountains
O oxygenated ions
They neutralize free radicals!
Balance nervous system!
Revitalize cell metabolism!
Clear the air!
What keeps us awake and alive?
This is the antidote to dystopian reality
Here in our wonderful state of “continental divide”
Another paradox as
We want to unify east & west invoking powerful sister
Bodies of water: Pacific and Atlantic and also snaking Colorado River
One of the life-lines our state poetically named in Spanish for:
This ruddy silt….. color rado…
Victory in this purple state open to all
With a big blue sky above, look up
The epoch belongs to the visionaries!
Our precious climate, our precious elemental world
Our magnificent topology
This is the antithesis reality
Antidote to psychotic dystopian governance
Antidote to unethical, unlawful, homophobic, misogynistic, racist, sexist, elitist, disaster governance
Humanity on the brink with crisis with syndicates of greed
Worlds in collision, who’s in charge?
World watching from its fraught cocoon
Floods, earthquakes, fires, famine, wars roiling destruction,
Cruelty, poverty, migration crisis, education crisis!
We are called to respond
Welcome to the poetry of accountable governance
What’s in a name? “polis” from the Greek is a city state or society
Characterized by a sense of community ….a body of citizens…
“Polis”: leading to the “common good”
Plato’s Republic conjured here in our auspicious acropolis
Our cosmopolis, citadel of tolerance, openness, intellect and vision
A new kind of nation state
This is the antithesis reality, a world worth living in
Plus crystalline lakes, dessert-like sand dunes
Aspens’ shining autumnal golden pennies
Shimmering in the breeze
Cottonwoods over creeks elegant with their damnable allergens
Big horn sheep in high meadows
Pronghorn that roamed how many millennia ago?
Solo grazing moose you don’t want to provoke
Rutting elk that scores hieroglyphs on barks of tree
Rubbing antlers into secret inscription
Forest, mountains, high plains, mesas, canyons, plateau
Tundra that once was ocean, ancient telluric mysteries,
And home to Folsom Culture back over 14,000 years
Ancient pueblo peoples, and noble Ute
Apache, Comanche, Arapaho, Cheyenne
Feel the faint breath of the air in which human beings and
Other planet denizens lived their lives. Here.
This is the New Year of the Antithesis Reality
Summoning unification on our Continental Divide
This is the year, this is it, the inauguration of Jared Polis
These are the beautiful reinvigorating Negative Ions of Governance
Of sane stewardship
The stage the arena the continuum the incubator
A vison that includes us all, not a dream deferred
Promise going deep Inside our skulls, little theatres of hope and fear
This is the antithesis reality, a beginning again
Let’s help turn this torqued troubled nation around
Transparency, as opposed to insularity
Leadership and compassion as opposed to exploitation, cynicism and cruelty
This is the victory reality while we still have a chance
Take this to Washington,
Evoke the natural world we can’t lose touch with
Still so vibrant and begs our help, don’t tarry! don’t tarry!
Invoke the consciousness, the mind of that world, the
Spirit-dralas of elemental presence
Colorado is awake now in its own populace its own promise
We are tasked with transmitting the endangered spirit of the earth
And our endangered humanity
“We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise
And if we are true to form
Our statures touch the skies” wrote Emily Dickinson
This is the antithesis reality, antidote to atrocity,
Breathe in the beautiful negative ions of true governance,
Breathe out the efficacy of what we may give generously to the world
In good body, mind, spirit
Lead us well!
Copyright 2019 by Anne Waldman