What becomes of them, the wise, the visionary, the passionate,
After they have been made legend, source of tales for schoolchildren,
Cause of national holidays?
What becomes of their passions, their faith, their beliefs?
Where do their dreams go to fade into public speeches?
Where do those who shared their dreams find strength to move?
Are we not still bound, still subject –
Not to kings but to political and corporate power,
Decisions that can ruin lives made far above us
In the mists of wealth and brute strength?
Are we not still terrorized by angry forces
Mangled in the pits that power creates?
Are we not still bigots, afraid of what we cannot understand?
Are we not still slaves to forces that we dimly see and cannot resist?
Are we not still devoted to self-defense, rejection, aggression, hatred?
Where are the dreams we had – freedom, equality, justice, love?
I still remember that black day of a dark April in a dreadful year of destruction,
Remember endless waves of shock and horror and despair.
Most of all fear. Who were we, that such death could happen?
We are who we are, corrupt, self-serving, frightened.
On this particular day and others like it, we speak of heroes and martyrs,
People who lifted us to our higher selves for a moment.
We make them legends, forgetting who they were.
We speak of them as from a distance, safe from the fire of their dreams,
Safe from their righteous anger, their all-consuming love.
We are diminished from vision to revision to television.
We are who we are, divided, self-centered, judgmental, afraid.
On this particular day, we watched a half-African man –
Fit symbol of our contentious melting-pot of a nation –
Celebrate his second inauguration,
Knowing that his dreams, too, are thwarted and defeated
By powers beyond his control, or ours.
Those powers are us, writ large.
We are who we are, suspicious, angry, uncertain, terrified.
And yet we remember hope, and love, and dreams, if distantly.
We remember passions spurred by generosity and grace,
Indignation and anger fuelled by thoughts of justice,
Purpose without defense.
We are who we are.
Perhaps the buried dreams will rise again.