Richard Blanco – 2013 Inaugural Poet

One Today by Poet 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 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

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