richard blanco | one today

24 01 2013

Richard Blanco

POETRY DISPATCH #388 | January 24, 2013


EDITOR’S NOTE: If you missed President Obama’s Second Inaugural celebration on Monday, you missed a great moment in American history. The evening news is such a dumbing-down of major (too often minor) daily events, that anything the networks tried to report of the Second Inaugural in sound-bites was close to total failure.

If you missed the address itself, the singers and speechmakers alone, you missed much. Judging by what I heard and saw ‘captured’ in later news reports (which totally eliminated our present poet laureate, Richard Blanco,) you also missed a poem and presentation so perfectly pure and “American” in celebration of the occasion, that I feel compelled to spread the word–a poem that will inevitably find its place in the fabric of our American literary history. “Hail to the chief”—poet. — Norbert Blei

One Today

by Richard Blanco
(read at President Obama’s Inaugural Ceremony January 2, 2013)

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 effaces 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 clothes line.

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 dias 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.



13 responses

24 01 2013

One poem. One day. Now four days. A chance to read, hear again one poem. Thank you, Norb, for retelling your part of the story away from the capital; helping us remember a wonderful voice and now see a poem written for the occasion; read with our own voice, and remember.

25 01 2013

Norb, thank you for your sending us this poem; I had copied it from a news article but that didn’t do it justice. And I did watch the entire second inauguaration speeches and the wonderful delivery of Blanco. A wonderful day.

25 01 2013
Martin Robinson

A great moment in American history? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this inane assessment, so I’ll just be pissed off at how a blindingly doctrinaire mentality elevates a puerile campaign speech to the level of the Gettysburg Address.

25 01 2013
Mary Ann Grzych

I heard the poem, thought it was great. Thanks for sending it out. I can now print it and enjoy it again.
Mary Ann Grzych

25 01 2013
Steven Fortney

I loved the poem. Read it again and it was as good as i remembered it. That Obama, a class act, to choose this poet. But I am partisan. For the Pres and really good poetry.

25 01 2013
Patricia Hewitt

The poem is a joy to read and read again. I am glad this young man had the opportunity to read his poem for this country, for this president, for us.

25 01 2013
John Caddy

Talk about dumbing down!

25 01 2013
Phil Hansotia

I missed the inauguration, regrettably, but have read this jewel over and over, delighting, in the presence of excellence that addresses snarling mediocracy with elegance. This poem should be read at WFOP meetings, and in schools as our flashlight to the future. Cheers Mr Blanco

25 01 2013
Richard Purinton

I liked the word imagery…more than that, I liked the fact you’re sending out dispatches with regularity once again. – Purinton, Washington Island

25 01 2013
Kevin Patrick Sullivan

Thanks Norbert — I was sick with the flu and slept all day and missed everything – now i at least have this – thank you again Kevin

25 01 2013
Patt Clark

I, too, was struck by the poem immediately as I listened to Blanco reading it at the inauguration. Reading it again only deepened my regard for the beauty of the poetry. I felt that anyone listening would walk away with a better attitude toward poems.

26 01 2013
Barbara Larsen

I’ve heard many inaugural poems and this was the finest ever. His words were simple and beautiful and described the real America many of us love and value.

28 01 2013
Alice D'Alessio

It reminded me of Whitman – so all-encompassing, with such tenderness and understanding; so full of praise and thankfulness and free of anger, blame and invective. Perfect for an occasion of celebration.

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