Richard Blanco’s Inaugural Poem

One Day

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

Richard Blanco, 2013 Inaugural Poet

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Richard Blanco, chosen by President Obama to deliver the Inaugural Poem. Photo (c) 2013 Craig Dilger for The New York Times

From the New York Times:

From the moment Barack Obama burst onto the political scene, the poet Richard Blanco, a son of Cuban exiles, says he felt “a spiritual connection” with the man who would become the nation’s 44th president.

Like Mr. Obama, who chronicled his multicultural upbringing in a best-selling autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” Mr. Blanco has been on a quest for personal identity through the written word. He said his affinity for Mr. Obama springs from his own feeling of straddling different worlds; he is Latino and gay (and worked as a civil engineer while pursuing poetry). His poems are laden with longing for the sights and smells of the land his parents left behind.

Now Mr. Obama is about to pluck Mr. Blanco out of the relatively obscure and quiet world of poetry and put him on display before the entire world.

There’s more…

Why Does Change Take So Damn Long?

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From the New York Times:

With Cuba cautiously introducing free-market changes that have legalized hundreds of thousands of small private businesses over the past two years, new economic bonds between Cuba and the United States have formed, creating new challenges, new possibilities — and a more complicated debate over the embargo.

The longstanding logic has been that broad sanctions are necessary to suffocate the totalitarian government of Fidel and Raúl Castro. Now, especially for many Cubans who had previously stayed on the sidelines in the battle over Cuba policy, a new argument against the embargo is gaining currency — that the tentative move toward capitalism by the Cuban government could be sped up with more assistance from Americans.

Even as defenders of the embargo warn against providing the Cuban government with “economic lifelines,” some Cubans and exiles are advocating a fresh approach. The Obama administration already showed an openness to engagement with Cuba in 2009 by removing restrictions on travel and remittances for Cuban Americans. But with Fidel Castro, 86, retired and President Raúl Castro, 81, leading a bureaucracy that is divided on the pace and scope of change, many have begun urging President Obama to go further and update American policy by putting a priority on assistance for Cubans seeking more economic independence from the government.

There’s more>>>Changes in Cuba Create Support for Easing Embargo

(Photo above (c) New York Times, 2012)

Daring to Visit Our Wounds

havana's life
Havana’s Life (Photo credit: Giulia Barbero)

and those of our parents. Ana Hebra Flaster, “a writer working on a memoir about her family’s journey from Cuba to New England.”

I LIED to my father, told him we were on Cape Cod when, in fact, we were bouncing around the battered streets of Havana in our friend José’s 1953 Chevrolet Deluxe, the one with the new Toyota engine but no working gauges on the dash. Nothing about Cuba is easy. Not the politics, not the crazy convertible peso and definitely not the getting there. But as a Cuban-American trying to connect with the last twigs of our family tree in Havana, the biggest obstacle I faced was my father’s disapproval.

There’s more. . .

A Havana Welcome

English: Fishing at the Malecon at sunset. At ...
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(Author’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a work in progress, From Mountain Road to Easy Street, a novel or a memoir, still not sure. This is a first draft so I hope you can overlook any typos or imperfections. The action being described by the narrator corresponds to events that happened on a day like today thirty-three years ago. The previous installment can be found HERE. Thanks for reading).

“The next day we flew to Havana and the crew on the flight was the most serious crew of stewardesses I had ever seen. Attentive, but serious, like they didn’t care if you ever flew their airline again.

But when we landed and they opened the cabin door and I started walking down the steps and the Caribbean breeze hit my face and the smell of Cuba hit my nostrils like the aroma of an attic full of memories that you haven’t visited in a decade, I found myself crying and the emotion I felt wasn’t one of sadness or joy either, it was a mixture of the two, almost in equal proportion.  I looked around and I saw tears rolling down my father’s face and the other passengers were no different and I saw a black stewardess pretending that she had something caught in her eye but I suspected that, forgetting the instructions she had received, she was caught in the enormity of the moment for a group of returning members of a dysfunctional family searching for meaning, and connections and some peace under the blue of tropical sky.

“The same tension we had felt in Mexico followed us through customs. The fact that most people we came in contact with wore the olive green of the Cuban law enforcement apparatus –- which had not been the case in Merida -– was a stark reminder that we were back, voluntarily, in the island-prison everyone had fought hard to escape. I noticed how the older members of our traveling party grew more apprehensive, especially when it was time to open up the bags to be inspected before proceeding. Again, the demeanor of those responsible for examining the contents was striking in its seriousness. Not a smile, not a word, except the very necessary, not even a look into our eyes as if we were all dangerously contagious and a friendly exchange of any sort would be fatal.

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A Valentine’s Day Like No Other

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Author’s note: This was first published 2/14/10. It is still my reality, that of millions of Cubans and others around the world who’ve suffered the same fate as I throughout our imperfect history.
Cuban refugees arriving in crowded boats durin...
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Forty one years ago today I became an exile.

I left Cuba on a day like today as a fourteen-year-old with my seventeen-year-old sister, traveling through Spain to get to the promised land: Southern California. This is where our cousins — the ones that sent for us — had settled. An American friend of theirs from church had donated the money to pay for my airfare. My cousins had paid for my sister’s.

In Spain we stayed with friends that were making the same trip but who were ahead of us by a couple of months. My parents were to join us later in Los Angeles, if everything worked out. It was not until years later that I was able to comprehend how big an if that had been.

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When a Close Relative Dies in Cuba

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You can’t grieve with the rest of the family, you can’t call and sometimes you don’t find out for days. If you live here, you can’t really travel there overnight.

Last week my uncle on my mother’s side died in Cuba. Last night it was my aunt on my father’s. The older generation is dying off.

Justo and Maria Teresa. I had not seen either one of them in over thirty years. I remember their sweetness and their apolitical nature. These two belonged to the family faction that continued talking to us, even after my parents announced their plans to apply for an exit visa to go North. On my Dad’s side, Maria Teresa was the exception. Even though she was married to a military man, my aunt kept coming around and we continued visiting her.

My Mom’s side of the family was less involved in the Castro government. They were less “political,” so not much changed between us, even after our status was degraded from typical citizens to counter-revolutionary worms on account of our political preferences and our travel plans.

Whenever I hear that someone in my family has died, I always picture the reunion on the other side with those that left before. These must be happy reunions, I imagine, because before the Castro brothers decided to impose their brand of paradise on our little paradise, our family got along just fine. The split in the family started showing in the early Sixties, right around the time that the Cuban Revolution was hijacked by a bunch of hoodlums.

Right around that time, the effects of the new socio-political order tore up the work that previous generations had done to keep us together.

Each time a relative dies over there, I’m reminded of the first time it happened after we had settled here in 1970. I was when my grandfather died.  It was in 1976. We heard about it from a cousin in Florida. It was a very painful experience for my father who adored Grandpa Baldomero. Somehow he managed to find out the name of the funeral home in Havana where the service was being held. He called, desperate to connect to his mother, older brother and three sisters. He asked for his older brother by name, when the funeral director answered the phone. He waited for any member of the family to come to the phone.

A few minutes the director was back on the phone. There was no one there by that name, he informed my father — even after he agreed originally to go get one of his relatives.

I remember Dad’s cries filling our railroad apartment in Union City after he hung up the phone. The sight of a crying father really impresses a teenager. I never forgot it.

We didn’t talk about it afterward but we all knew what had happened. My uncle was the national director of some Communist ministry. He didn’t want to appear to have a relationship with anyone who had renounced the Revolution that he so valued. A call from the United States, even if from a grieving brother, could compromise your revolutionary standing. My Dad eventually, if not instantly, forgave my uncle. He understood his blind, political fanaticism. Me, I’m not so sure.

Families members on different sides of a political — and physical — gulf. The reality of life in exile.

Como Los Censurados Practican La Censura

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Blogger is blocked by anti-internet censorship site

(Una version en Ingles de este articulo se encuentra AQUI)

He sido bloqueado por un usuario de Twitter que dice ser un canal para los que no tienen voz y son oprimidos en Cuba. Esto nunca me habia sucedido a mí.

Yo confundi este sitio, cuyo eslogan dice: “La prensa libre es la madre de todas nuestras libertades y de nuestro progreso bajo la libertad” y que retuitea este tipo de mensaje: “Internet es nuestra fuerza, no nos pueden callar!” con un lugar donde la discusión honesta sobre las cuestiones importantes se podía llevar acabo y donde la crítica justa y constructiva sería bienvenida.

Parece que me equivocaba.

Al parecer ofendi a alguien cuando me queje de chistes chocantes y homofóbicos, de comentarios racistas y de propaganda de la ultra-derecha Estadounidense. Yo no he podido encontrar ninguna otra razón. Y para comprender mejor lo que pasó, voy a hacer un breve recuento de los acontecimientos que llevaron a mi “prohibición”.

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