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 our 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.
Added: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 / Excerpt from "One Day." Used with permission.
Richard Blanco served as the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history for President Barack Obama. Born in Madrid to Cuban exiles and raised in Miami, Blanco is the author of four collections of poetry: How to Love a Country (Beacon Press, 2019), Looking for The Gulf Motel (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012), Directions to The Beach of the Dead (University of Arizona Press, 2005), and City of a Hundred Fires (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998). His awards include the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press, the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center, the Paterson Poetry Prize, and the Thom Gunn Award. He has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR’s Fresh Air. He is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow and has received honorary doctorates from Macalester College and Colby College. He has taught at Wesleyan University and Georgetown University. The Prince of Los Cocuyos (Ecco), a memoir of his childhood in Miami, won a 2015 Lambda Literary Award.