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Monday, January 21, 2013

Poem from the Inauguration

This is the complete free-verse composition that poet Richard Blanco recited at the 57th Presidential Inauguration, just after President Barack Obama was sworn-in for his second term:


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 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 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


Anonymous said...

Way cool! Right after I read this, a band in the Inauguration Parade played "This Land is Your Land" and you could just see Woody Guthrie smiling from somewhere!

- Larry, the editor said...

Yes, indeed. That band is the Northern State University Marching Band from Aberdeen, South Dakota. Nice choice, eh? Especially since some of us think that song would be perfect as our national anthem. -- editor.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Now this is something: The VMI (Virginia Military Institute) band just went by. Wearing the same style uniforms the VMI cadets wore 150 years ago when they attacked the "invading" Yankee army in the Civil War. From fighting for the Confederacy and for slavery then to honoring a black president now. I wonder how many who saw them go by have any idea? - Tom

Anonymous said...

Richard Blanco the poet. Youngest poet ever in an inauguration. Cuban-American. And openly gay. Now that says a lot about how far we've come, too.

Anonymous said...

Freezing my ass off but glad we made the trip here! James Taylor, YES! Not impressed with that American Idol singer tho. Bands in parade all good, and hope for space program restart with NASA there with Curiosity and Orion in parade. But it is COLD here, especially since parade went past dark. Tell me it wasn't really 80 degrees today in California?

Anonymous said...

Went to show my mom the civil rights poster you had on the site Sunday and found your pic from the inauguration lunch. Enjoyed that, but can you send me the poster? My mom marched with Dr. King across the Pettis Bridge and I want to print one for her. Thanks! - Elaine

- Larry, the editor said...

Here's the url for the poster. The original is of low resolution, though, and this is all we have:

Anonymous said...

Why does everyone call this 'poetry'? I mean, it is a nice essay with a theme that fit, but poetry? I don't see it.