HOPE IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD
Hope is a four-letter word
is the first line of a poem I want to write
about Barack Obama and the hope
he brings to all of us. I do not
have the poem yet but I have
the refrain. The refrain is:
Hope is a four-letter word.
The poem will be about the way in which
we have all felt we cannot express hope
for a long time and now we can. It will imply
through the use of the phrase “is a four letter word”
that hope has been as forbidden as an expletive,
that it has been unholy to say the word:
hope. And the refrain of this poem will be:
Hope is a four-letter word.
At one particularly heightened point in
the verse I will refer to the candidate as “Barack Pandora”
for opening the box and letting the four-letter bird of hope into our lives.
I will explain that Obama’s candidacy has opened the box
and brought out of hiding the demons of racism and apathy
and inequality and injustice. The hope his candidacy brought
was like a four-letter bird flapping her winds, shaking the dust
of those demons off her wings, throwing those dusty old demons out of the box
and into the light of CNN and YouTube. His candidacy
has unmasked these demons for discussion. It has unpacked
the box for debate. His candidacy made it possible
–made it necessary – to openly discuss these demons.
We are facing the true nature of our nation
as we face whether or not
we are going to elect Barack Obama President.
His candidacy opened the box and at the bottom of this box is hope,
which remains to us,
and I will hope. I do hope. I am hoping now. The poem
will be extremely hopeful. Hope is a four letter-word
and I will use it like one. I will say “What the hope” and “Hope yeah!”
and “Why the hope not?” and “I swear to hope it’s about hoping time
this country got hoping ready to elect Barack Obama President!”
Not only will I use this refrain,
Hope is a four-letter word,
but I will also use other poetic devices,
such as rhyme and repetition, to make the point of the poem.
Through sound and image I will unite the idea of Hope
with the idea of Barack Obama’s candidacy.
I will call, through comparison, this country
a piece of paper – and I will fold that paper
to make an origami animal
of the four-letter bird of hope,
to make a new beginning for a nation
that has forgotten how to spell justice.
To fold the bird of the new beginning,
take the tattered map of this compromised country,
red on one side, blue on the other,
and fold it along the Mason-Dixon line.
Fold it again along the triangle of the Mississippi Delta.
Fold it west at Tornado Alley, west again
at the Rocky Mountains, west at the San Andreas Fault.
Fold east it at the Appalachians and at the Atlantic.
To open the origami, place one thumb on the state of Illinois
and one on the state of Hawaii.
Open the fold at November Fourth
and you will see a nation that is neither red nor blue
but purple, the color of victory, a victory for all of us
in the election of Barack Obama as the President of this nation.
You will see a nation that spells its name,
The United States of America,
with just four letters –
I am not as good a poet
as Obama is a politician.
I cannot write the poem I am dreaming of.
But he can build the nation we are all hoping for.
On the fourth of November, two thousand and eight,
all things are possible,
all men are created equal,
and all the world’s a page in the book of history
about to be turned, and the first word
at the top of the next page –
– I can’t see it, but I know what it says –
has just four letters.