“On the Pulse of Morning”was read at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton. Maya Angelou was the first African American and woman to read at the inauguration and the first poet. The poem calls for unity and collective responsibility for social and global issues. It reminds us that all of our actions have consequences, and it calls on us to greet each new day, each being and even every rock, with respect.  Even understanding the vast expanses of history, we can also mark new beginnings. 

On the Pulse of Morning
Maya Angelou

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon,
The dinosaur, who left dried tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow,
I will give you no hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness
Have lain too long
Facedown in ignorance,
Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.

The Rock cries out to us today,
You may stand upon me,
But do not hide your face.

Writing Prompts Inspired by On the Pulse of Morning

Write a poem to a rock. What does the rock say? What do you say to it?

Maya Angelou in her own way became a kind of rock, a stable foundation, for so many younger writers, women, activists, Black Americans, who looked to her for her clarity of vision, expression, and heart.

To read more morning poems, or poems of transition of any kind, come on over to my blog post to get 15 great morning poems.

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