"One Today," the poem Richard Blanco read at Monday's presidential inauguration, describes a typical American morning: "My face, your face, millions of faces in morning's mirrors/Each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day."
For Blanco, of course, the day was anything but typical. Shortly after noon in Washington, D.C., the Miami-raised, Florida International University-educated poet not only recited an original work before an audience of millions, but he also became the first openly gay and first Hispanic poet to be featured at a presidential inauguration. At 44 years old, Blanco also became the youngest. (Oddly, only five poets have ever been invited to read at a presidential inauguration, beginning with Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are the only other presidents to have passed the mike to poets. Read into that what you will.)
Written by Blanco for the inauguration, "One Today" is, no surprise, a celebration of diversity, the working class and the pursuit of the American dream. It's also, again no surprise, beautifully written, making the universal personal as the poet speaks of "hands as worn as my father's cutting sugarcane so my brother and I could have books and shoes," and tapping along with and into the rhythm of America, "the symphony of footsteps, guitars and screeching subways/the unexpected songbird on your clothesline."
The poem offers uplift ("some days giving thanks for a love that loves you back") countered with private heartbreak ("sometimes praising a mother who knew how to give, or forgiving a father who couldn't give what you wanted") and a shared, unspeakable loss ("the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won't explain the empty desks of twenty children marked absent today, and forever").
"He's been writing nonstop," Carlos Blanco told the Sun Sentinel last week about the work of his younger brother, who now lives in Maine, on the inaugural poem. "He'll stay up until 4 or 5 in the morning."
On top of everything else Richard Blanco achieved, he can add this: He's now our favorite morning person.
To read "One Today" in full, go to Action.2013pic.org.