Weekly Poem: ‘The Elders’


By Elizabeth Alexander

watched him glitter,
watched him gleam,
shook his un-rough hands
with their cotton-scarred hands,
cut their eyes at him,
observed the ease with which he smiled,

asked, finally, what is love,
and who are The People
and how must we love them and what do we need,
what is now, look at the lines
in the corner of youngblood’s eyes,
lined not unlike our hands,
and perhaps this is not gleam but illumination,
not merely his but ours.


Elizabeth AlexanderElizabeth Alexander was born in Harlem, raised in Washington, D.C., and attended Yale University, where she now teaches African American Studies. She is the author of six books of poems, including most recently, “Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010.” On Jan. 20, 2009, Alexander became just the fourth poet to recite an original poem at a U.S. presidential inauguration. Look for an upcoming conversation with her here on Art Beat. Meantime, watch Alexander’s 2009 conversation with Jeffrey Brown.