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Amanda Gorman’s poetic answer to pandemic grief: ‘Do not ignore the pain’

Throughout the pandemic, grief has weighed us down.

When Amanda Gorman wrote her poem, “The Miracle of Morning,” it was early on in the coronavirus pandemic, when we were only beginning to comprehend the scale of national mourning to come. But even then, she wanted to acknowledge the promise of healing, like the light of morning, that springs from despair.

While we might feel small, separate, and all alone,
Our people have never been more closely tethered.
The question isn’t if we can weather this unknown,
But how we will weather this unknown together.

From there, she delivers a terse, but pertinent directive: “Do not ignore the pain. Give it purpose. Use it.”

Turning toward the light is a theme she brought to a national stage this week in a different poem, when she became the youngest inauguration poet in U.S. history to deliver verse from the U.S. Capitol as part of President Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony.

In “The Hill We Climb,” she offered a vision of the nation that “isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.”

“When day comes, we ask ourselves: / Where can we find light / In this never-ending shade?” she read.

Gorman told the PBS NewsHour that her pandemic poem, “The Miracle of Morning” took a while to craft.

“I feel like sculpting something out of stone, like you’re just banging the hammer trying to find the shape from within,” she said of her writing process.

The Miracle of Morning

By AMANDA GORMAN

I thought I’d awaken to a world in mourning.
Heavy clouds crowding, a society storming.
But there’s something different on this golden morning.
Something magical in the sunlight, wide and warming.

I see a dad with a stroller taking a jog.
Across the street, a bright-eyed girl chases her dog.
A grandma on a porch fingers her rosaries.
She grins as her young neighbor brings her groceries.

While we might feel small, separate, and all alone,
Our people have never been more closely tethered.
The question isn’t if we can weather this unknown,
But how we will weather this unknown together.

So on this meaningful morn, we mourn and we mend.
Like light, we can’t be broken, even when we bend.

As one, we will defeat both despair and disease.
We stand with healthcare heroes and all employees;
With families, libraries, waiters, schools, artists;
Businesses, restaurants, and hospitals hit hardest.

We ignite not in the light, but in lack thereof,
For it is in loss that we truly learn to love.
In this chaos, we will discover clarity.
In suffering, we must find solidarity.

For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude,
Shows us how to find hope, if we ever lose it.
So ensure that this ache wasn’t endured in vain:
Do not ignore the pain. Give it purpose. Use it.

Read children’s books, dance alone to DJ music.
Know that this distance will make our hearts grow fonder.
From these waves of woes our world will emerge stronger.

We’ll observe how the burdens braved by humankind
Are also the moments that make us humans kind;
Let each morning find us courageous, brought closer;
Heeding the light before the fight is over.
When this ends, we’ll smile sweetly, finally seeing
In testing times, we became the best of beings.

April 2020

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