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…

A Friend Was Feeling Down. I Read Her A Poem.

A dear friend called. She was feeling a bit depressed, aggravated, like life was not being fair on this particular day. “On this particular decade,” I think she would interject. I listened. I empathized.

When I ran out of supportive words, I offered to read her a Wislawa Szymborska poem. She agreed, which is one of the reasons I love her–she knows what she needs. I said I was just going to open the book and read whatever I open it to.

“It might depress you even more…”

“Go ahead. Read.”

This is where we landed:

            
It could have happened. 
It had to happen. 
It happened sooner. Later. 
Nearer. Farther. 
It happened not to you. 

You survived because you were the first. 
You survived because you were the last. 
Because you were alone. Because of people. 
Because you turned left. Because you turned right. 
Because rain fell. Because a shadow fell. 
Because sunny weather prevailed. 

Luckily there was a wood. 
Luckily there were no trees. 
Luckily there was a rail, a hook, a beam, a brake, 
a frame, a bend, a millimeter, a second. 
Luckily a straw was floating on the surface. 

Thanks to, because, and yet, in spite of. 
What would have happened had not a hand, a foot, 
by step, a hairsbreadth 
by sheer coincidence.
So you're here? Straight from a moment still ajar? 
The net had one eyehole, and you got through it? 
There's no end to my wonder, my silence.
Listen 
how fast your heart beats in me.

“Beautiful,” she said and then added. “They should read that poem to returning soldiers.”

She thanked me. I thanked the poet.

(Above poem: There But for the Grace by Wislawa Szymborska – (c) 1972)

A Poem (And A Photograph)

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NICOLAS

My five-year-old brother hands me my mail,
Happy Birthday, he says while smiling
content to be eating pretzels and peanut butter
before dinner. I flip through the stack
of unopened bank statements.
Nicolas has decided that uncooked pasta
is worth trying. He offers me some.
No, thank you. I’m not hungry, I say.
He reaches for the sugar bowl, the teapot,
the clock: they are companions, belong together.

He thinks of home. Mama? Papa? he asks.
I explain they are near, at The Mermaid Inn.
I distract him by changing a light bulb.
We agree the kitchen is too bright.

And, later, when asked by our father
the child says, yes, in fact he would
like to thank god for something:

cupcakes.

Sherisse Alvarez

A Poem (And A Photograph)

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Waiting

New York, like my heart, is desolate since you left
and the presence of yesterday remains encrusted
to the lining of my lungs.

You’re not here and I can’t think of much else
or find solace in the corners bent on hiding
the face of hope from my face.

I cant stand being inside this skin
you’ve not caressed in an eternity of loss.
I’ve tried escaping through the surface cracks.

Waiting is a foreign game I never learned to play
and yet, waiting seems to be the only way to get
to where love patiently awaits.

A Poem (And A Drawing)

My Idol

I’ve searched for an idol colorful and fat

to sit with me at my table and smile

a reassuring smile at my plight.

This idol of mine should know

what my needs are, without the need

of any confessional crap — anticipate them even —

in keeping me satisfied.

The empty feelings I’ve had by my side

will magically disappear,

my idol must make sure of that.

He’s to provide comfort, look out for my interests,

and correct all shortcomings

that might get in the way

of a full enjoyment of life.

My savior. My hope. My pal.

A Poem (And A Drawing)

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Grace


I entered the cathedral
of the sungod, slash sungodess
—their mythological names
escape me now— barefoot and
weary, under branched arches
of ash, maple and oak.
On a bell tower of tall clouds,
birds of color clang in unison,
the scattered flock called
to worship in the lit afternoon.

We gather, silently,
under the celestial dome
emptied of all need for repentance
because we did not sin,
in confidence, I’ve been told.
A priestess of sincere smiles,
like ripe fruits, blesses herself
and tells us to bless each other,
before yielding the altar
to a choir of youth.
A spiritual joins our voices
in joyous exuberance, clapping
to unrehearsed notes, clapping
bodies swaying in the wind,
tasting the certainty of heaven
in scales flavored with honey and milk.

The celebration winds down,
the service will soon fade
–as dew by early morning rays.
I sit in quiet reverence, breathing
ecstasy, eating truth. On this day,
in the majestic simplicity of nature,
on fiery wings, I saw grace descend
onto the shoulders of earth.

A Poem (And A Photograph) From My Traveling Daughter

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Untitled

I kiss the wrinkles on your forehead

Hold your big hands as I cross the bridge at dusk

The skin of the sky is pink like your face when illuminated only

By lamplight

I wish. I wish. I wish

You back

Nothing happened in the cathedral

Nothing happened on the square

Except that I crossed over you and your bones

Grandfather before and grandfather then

You leave only one widow and she sits by the window in the airplane with a book

I don’t want to remember you as ashes in river water

But there you are, everywhere I look

–Sherisse Alvarez

A Poem (and a Photograph)

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Here’s Where I Am

After forty years on the road,
I am coming home to you,
my angel queen.

Ahead I see your castle-home
on top of the world
sitting in front of the perfect dawning of the sun–
daily hopes arising out of the blue
coral depths of your pupils.

My steps guided by an ancient calling
–like sirens in the mist–
a song I’ve heard
rustling through your hair
while kissing your skin.

A scent of satisfaction
inundates the road I walk
and sooth these lungs
you helped me fathom.
The road has opened up considerably
and I notice, for the first time,
the flowers that rise up
to touch the butterflies
suspended in mid-air
coloring each side.

There are lights
on all your windows
as I turn the last corner of the road.

I cross the garden
you fertilized with patient years;
I see the open door
and I walk into
this holy space and the warmth
of your internal fire
envelopes my tired bones
making them new again.
I am reborn as I cross the door,
I become a new man with your embrace and
holding hands we walk
up the last few steps.

Rejoicing in the welcome
you extend, I bring
my soul, may hands and my joys
to our bed. To sleep,
finally, to sleep in you, next to you
as you sleep in a womb of your creation.

Our home in God, blessed
by the children we’ll create
out of the gentle collisions of our cells
in the afternoon of the first day
that precedes the eternity
love is.

I’ve come home,
darling, I am home.
Home to run through
every room, open all the windows
and let life in.

I bring life with me
after a whole life of not knowing
life
until you showed me all I missed.

All of life I missed you–now I know
as I arrive home I bring the truth
in the inner linings of my eyes
and under my fingertips.

From under an arched window
high in our tower
we look at the new world
that spreads to the horizon all around
a world of possibilities
where the sun and the moon
dance around
the million stars that light heaven’s way.

I am home. Finally arrived
to meet your eyes. Home
made of stone, clay and the rituals
that made possible the history of the world
from beginning to today.

I am home,
home at last

here’s where I am

Image: Landscape viewed from the New Bridge, Puente Nuevo, in Ronda, Malaga province, Andalusia, Spain.
Photograph by: Carl Curman
Date: 1878
Format: Cyanotype