Inaugural poet Richard Blanco makes history

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poet

An audience for inaugural poet Richard Blanco. - PHOTO: PIC2013

Richard Blanco, a gay Cuban-American, delivered the inaugural poem today (Jan. 21). He became the first gay and Latino poet to recite at the inauguration. He’s also the youngest inaugural poet.

The poem, “One Today,” follows:

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,

peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth

across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies. One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,

each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:

pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,

fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper— bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,

on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives— to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,

the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day: equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined, the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,

or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain

the empty desks of twenty children marked absent today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light breathing color into stained glass windows,

life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth

onto the steps of our museums and park benches 2 as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat

and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands

as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane

so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs, buses launching down avenues, the symphony

of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways, the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,


or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open for each other all day, saying: hello| shalom,

buon giorno |howdy |namaste |or buenos días

in the language my mother taught me—in every language spoken into one wind carrying our lives

without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands: weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report

for the boss on time, stitching another wound 3 or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait, or the last floor on the Freedom Tower

jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes tired from work: some days guessing at the weather of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love

that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother who knew how to give, or forgiving a father

who couldn’t give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight

of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home, always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop

and every window, of one country—all of us—

facing the stars

hope—a new constellation waiting for us to map it,

waiting for us to name it—together