It is January 20th, 2009 and I am here. I come from every state and territory, and from all over the world. I walked, I bicycled, I hitchhiked, I drove by car, I flew by plane, I rode the A-train—I watched on TV and listened on the neighbor’s radio. I am the millions who made the hajj to Washington, D.C., recorded and documented—bona fide witnesses of The First. My coat is raggedy, my coat’s fine, mine is a cloak of dreams. The future blows blithely from the White House, the Library of Congress, the Lincoln Memorial, and from the mountaintop. I am drinking in the wine, the water, the milk and the glory. We eat donuts, pizza, share sandwiches, dine in grungy cafes and upscale restaurants, we don’t have anything but potato chips, candy bars and manna, but we are all sky high on hope. I am warm, my head is elated, my heart is full, my feet are on clouds, my soul is with Aretha. I watch the parade and go to every ball. I groove to “At Last” on shining parquet, gleaming tiles, the beat-up rug, in mosh pits and the streets (they play the Beyoncé version but I hear Etta James). I gather memories on camera and buy everything collectible. Then I gather myselves up for the struggles ahead on the road that goes on-and-on, that eternal journey home, smiling so hard my face breaks with justice. We gots happy tears and wild wild laughter.

Originally Published: January 28th, 2009

Poet and writer Wanda Coleman was a blatantly humanist artist who won much critical acclaim for her unusually prescient and often innovative work, but who struggled to make a living from her craft. In discussing “my life in poetry,” More magazine, April 2005, Camille Paglia said of Coleman: “She’s not...

  1. January 28, 2009
     martin Earl

    I love these capsule descriptions you do. They're dense and declarative and speak pages; index card, postcard-sized descriptions, wealth of detail, they speed-feed the reader. This one is like Whitman in a nutshell. Absolutely beautiful.
    ps...check our Eliott Erwitt's photo spread in Newsweek, similar density and gathering.

  2. March 7, 2009
     Beth Blakeman

    To Wanda Coleman:
    Dear Wanda,
    Your beautiful beautiful private inauguration is words, but beyond words. I was in my kitchen cooking and baking and watching every move and caressing every word. Next to my fireplace is a gold framed front page of the Albuquerque Journal of Barack Obama waving from the day he won the election. I sit beneath it when I watch television. He is my hero. He is my leader. He is my sherpa for the long road ahead. I would like your personal permission to take your beautiful words and display them inside the frame with him. May I have it?
    Renée Blake
    Albuquerque, New Mexico