Inaugural Poem: A Sustainable Courage
4 January 2007
A Sustainable Courage
When I pick up my newspaper, it weighs 50 lbs.—
It's full of problems, people arguing, dying, disasters.
Picking up that paper is an act of courage.
Facing that paper only begins our day, begins our wondering
Where to go next. Arizona, we gather today
On the border between our past and what will come tomorrow,
Our past not simply people but place and animal, too,
Trees, and the comings and goings of the curious moon.
We are and have been Indian, Mexican, Canadian, Sudanese.
We are and have been herder, engineer, laborer, inventor.
We have been warmed by the winter sun, its set and rise.
We have been awed by the smell of rain on creosote,
The copper and the turquoise and the cotton of this place.
Arizona itself lives inside us, each so different from the other.
Different, yet, we hold in common more than not:
We have all been children, been thirsty, done a hard day's work.
Therein lies our common ground.
We speak different languages, but we say the same things.
Can I help you? Are you hungry? I am tired.
We have worked, wept, celebrated. We have moved forward.
Much has been asked of us, and much we have freely given.
We know that yesterday has made us and tomorrow will receive us,
No matter what. But have we earned our way?
When we give water to each other, will we replace it, too?
When we breathe the air, will we keep it clean? Every day,
What we do extends us, me to you, you to me, neighbor to neighbor,
All of us in action. All of us affected. We have learned—
And learning is everything—that even the smallest act matters.
We are all students opening the book of our past and reading
The possibility of our future: Can we look back and ask,
Is it good, the ripple that happens in our wake?
Yes, we say, starting today. Yes, we say, for tomorrow.
©2007 Alberto Ríos