READ: Marcus Amaker, Charleston's poet laureate, pens a mayoral inauguration poem

Hope is in the listening


Jonathan Boncek file photo

Today, Mon. Jan. 13, Mayor John Tecklenburg and newly elected members of Charleston City Council will be sworn into office on the steps of City Hall. Noting the occasion, the city's poet laureate, Marcus Amaker has written a poem, "Hope is in the listening."

Amaker, who also founded the Free Verse poetry festival, said that in an effort to "hold a mirror to Charleston and write about what I see," he set out to reference three issues in the inauguration poem: Inequality, racism, and flooding.

"I spoke with the mayor about the poem and he is aware of these challenges," Amaker says. "As a black artist who is invited to privileged spaces, I hope that what I talk about deepens the understanding of what it really means to be a citizen in the Holy City. There's joy, blessings, lovely landscapes, and great food. And there's also a lot of unbalance."

Hope is in the listening

City as sorcerer and storyteller, sharp-eyed
observant, holy grandmother. She’s survived 350 years

because the longevity of the Lowcountry requires
a special kind of magic. Today, we are witnesses

to that witchcraft. Citizens of its charm. Today,
she is the voice connecting her family: The tourist

and tour guide, cradling history in their arms
like a crying infant. The LGBTQ+ community,

joyous and resilient in the shadow of hate crimes.
Plantation workers sending one-way postcards

to ghosts. Black poets, the great interpreters
of Southern truth. The farmer, hand delivering

homegrown sunshine. The mayor, whose job is to
see hope through floods and watered-down politics.

Charleston’s story should be defined by
this diversity. The sounds of promise and protest.

She may be old, but her best days are ahead.
Whatever challenges await, we will face them together

because she hears us, people of change.
She hears us.

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