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Prayer for Our Country [upon the Inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama], by Ilana Joy Streit (2009)

I am a USer who is politically liberal/ radical/ progressive.

For a number of years before writing this poem, I had been in Shabbat services where we read Prayer for our Country aloud out of the siddur, longingly wishing that we had elected leaders and officials that we could trust and respect.

Then Barack Obama was elected and inaugurated as President. A few days after he was inaugurated, I saw a photo of him on the front page of a local newspaper. I felt something viscerally in that moment — that moment of promise — and this poem came as a result.

[Financial contributions are most welcome, and support further creation and sharing of Ilana’s creative work. Venmo to @Ilana-Streit.]


1. I just want to keep looking
       at the photo of you
       on the front page of the newspaper
       sitting there at your desk in the Oval Office
       on the telephone
2. May all my cells
       take in this hope
3. May all parents of newborns
       get an extra half-hour of sleep
       every night
4. May Barack Hussein Obama
       live to 120
5. May hope, now that we’ve
       allowed it into us,
       may it now be free
       to roam around
       on city streets in the middle
       of the night
       when so many of us are asleep
6. May hope, now that we’ve
       seen it on each other’s faces
       and tasted it in our tears –
       may it have little parades
       all the time
       along with each day’s rush hour traffic
7. May hope, now that we keep naming it,
       remain.
       May we perhaps forget
       why we refound it,
       who helped us find it
8. May there be
       in my lifetime
       a female president
       of the United States

       May she live to 120

9. May none of us pray to President Obama
       May all of us pray for him
       May no one prey upon him
10. May we continue to merit
       leaders
       the sight of whom
       makes me start to cry
       with relief
11. I just so love the photo
       on the front page of the newspaper
       of you sitting there in the Oval Office
       on the telephone to God

“Prayer for Our Country” was composed by Ilana Streit in January 2009 in honor of Barack Hussein Obama completing his first full day in the office of President.

 

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