In her community column this week, Emily Paine Carter quotes from “The Place that Proudly Bore Us.” Roanoke College professor Melanie Almeder wrote the poem for the inauguration of Roanoke College President Michael Maxey. Here is the full text (be sure to click “read more”), courtesy of Roanoke College:
“The Place that Proudly Bore Us” (for President Maxey)
had brick edifices long acquainted with humility.
They were old witness to summer’s green insistence,
to the late days in October when the sugar maples blazed
yellow like some light-bearing beings. There we began
and began again, the new thought, the better idea
like a restless benediction among us. Some days
you could glance up from a desk and there were the mountains,
as vague as a blue haze. Some days, you glanced up from a book
and they looked as certain as spines, leaf-thick,
above which hawks swung in their slow loops,
along which so many years had moved. Our century
had long known that knowledge was no innocent, yoked as it could be
to the ox of empire; complicit as it could be in the disappearance
of innocents. We knew the best truths were not well-heeled,
not rarified objects set on the polished shelves of self. So there was,
in that place, a restless faith. The best among us
built houses for people they’d never meet; meditated
on the life of a cell for what it might heal; kneeled at the beds of the dying.
The best among us tracked trickster politics, calculated the weight of space,
wandered knee-deep through blue waters to record the life spans of fish.
The best among us still believed history might teach us.
The best among us disagreed; the best among us gazed deeply
into the texts of ancients to gather the threads of peace,
to weave a necessary grace. And “when that winter of life
does pass before us,” snow making our days into a white hush,
may the quiet recall a mother who said, do your best, and might the book
fallen open recall this place, the knowledge that was made,
that asked what it meant to be human, to be something like holy.
(c) 2007 Melanie Almeder. All rights reserved.
Note: The title and the line “when that winter of life does pass before us” are borrowed from the Roanoke College Alma Mater Hymn. The alma mater words were written by Grace Bosworth, with music by Dr. Frank Williams.
Dr. Melanie Almeder, associate professor of English, is an award-winning writer and poet. Almeder’s writing has been published in a range of journals including: “Poetry,” “32 Poems,” “The Seneca Review” and “Five Points.” Her first book of poems, On Dream Street, won the Editor’s Prize at Tupelo Press and was published in February 2007. She is currently revising a second book of poems, Red Undoing, and working on a series of essays about writers in exile. On Dream Street is available at the Roanoke College Bookstore and Tupelo Press www.tupelopress.org.