Richard Blanco Shines At Obama Inauguration | Jive in the [415] Blog | Gay LGBT News Political Commentary

January 22, 2013

Richard Blanco Shines At Obama Inauguration

Richard Blanco the Obama Inaugural poet January 21, 2013

"every language spoken into one wind carrying our lives without prejudice, as these words break from my lips"

Richard Blanco, of Bethel, Maine, was chosen to be the 2013 Inaugural poet, by President Barack Obama. With the choice of Blanco, Obama said “Richard’s writing will be wonderfully fitting for an inaugural that will celebrate the strength of the American people and our nation’s great diversity.”

Richard became the youngest inaugural poet ever chosen (at 44), the first immigrant (he was born in Madrid), the first Latino, and the first gay man. He’s spent most of his professional life as a civil engineer. The award winning poet recently left the engineering profession to devote all of his time to writing.

Hector Tobar wrote about Richard for the Los Angeles Times after he was chosen for the Inaugural honor.
“Richard Blanco was made in Cuba, assembled in Spain, and imported to the United States — meaning his mother, seven months' pregnant, and the rest of the family arrived as exiles from Cuba to Madrid, where he was born,” reads the biography he penned for the Poetry Foundation website.
Blanco said he’s been thinking of his immigrant family since getting the news of his appointment.
"Even though it's been a few weeks since I found out, [I’m] just thinking about my parents and my grandparents and all the struggles they've been through,” he told NPR. “Here I am, first-generation Cuban American, and this great honor that has just come to me, and [I’m] just feeling that sense of just incredible gratitude and love."
“America” speaks, also, to the Blanco family’s ambivalence about its newfound American identity. When 7-year-old Richard tells his grandmother about Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims, she agrees to prepare a turkey, but does so “as if committing an act of treason.”
Growing up gay and Cuban American was an even bigger challenge. In the poem “Queer Theory, According to My Grandmother,” Blanco writes of the many admonitions he received growing up.
“For God’s sake, never pee sitting down…./I’ve seen you,” his grandmother says. “Don’t stare at The Six-Million-Dollar Man./I’ve seen you.” And finally: “Never dance alone in your room.
Blanco never did stop dancing.
The Washington Post wrote about Richard’s inaugural poem “One Today.”
Poet Richard Blanco has delivered an inaugural poem paying homage to the American experience.
Blanco, at age 44 the youngest ever inaugural poet, recited a poem that painted vivid scenes about America and included reflections on his experience growing up as Cuban exile in New York City and Miami.
I applaud Richard Blanco for writing a beautiful touching poem, that was heartfelt and touching, and reflected his “American Experience.” It’s a chronicle of life that many people can relate to.

The full text of the poem is below.

The 2013 Inaugural poet Richard Blanco of Bethel, Maine
The inaugural poem "One Today" was written by Richard Blanco for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration January 21, 2013.

"One Today"

By Richard Blanco

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
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 clothesline.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across cafe 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
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

straight talk in a queer world.              
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