It's long been a tradition for poet laureates to write an "occasional poem" to mark specific occasions or moments in time. In these unusual times, I've been moved to write an occasional poem for the Alabama high school graduates of 2020, titled "Beyond the Numbers." The text and video are below; feel free to share.
Beyond the Numbers
—for the Alabama high school graduating class of 2020
You are from 67 counties
in a state of 5 million people
a quarter (or so) of whom are under 18.
You are 50,000 in number,
in a state of 52,000-plus square miles,
more than a square mile for each of you!
You are from Mobile, Montgomery, Madison, and maybe even McMullen,
from Birmingham, Bessemer, and Brilliant,
Tuscaloosa, Trussville, Tuscumbia, Tuskegee, and Twin,
Alabaster, Auburn, and Allgood.
You’re told you are the future, the promise, the hope—
and you are, but you are also
sad, tired, frustrated, and discouraged—at least sometimes.
You see so many numbers in the news these days:
gatherings of 10 or more, 50% capacity,
not to mention the number of infections, the almost 500 deaths.
So what’s beyond today? What’s beyond the numbers?
You are. Unique. A once-in-a-worldtime life.
A life that can be inventive, courageous, kind, outrageous,
bring joy, humor, hope,
and open up to the unknown.
This one life. Yours.
That no numbers can define.
By Jennifer Horne
Alabama Poet Laureate