“One Today”: Text of Richard Blanco’s Inaugural Poem

CBS News, January 22, 2013

This is the text of the poem “One Today,” written and recited by Richard Blanco at the ceremonial swearing-in ceremony of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, as provided by the Presidential Inaugural Committee:

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 dias
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.

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  • SintiriNikos

    Hosannas for the caramel Messiah.

    • Tim

      That line shows me you`re up for the job and would be more articulate in the bargain…

      • SintiriNikos

        haha thanks Tim. It is possible when future civilizations go through the ashes of ours, they will find this poem, inauguration and speech videos, the odd left-wing blog, and have no choice but to assume we worshipped a God/Messiah named Barack Obama.

        • Tim

          Speaking of future civilizations and worship… I read a great story in the “aftermath” chapter of a book on the Waffen SS. Seems that one of Hitler`s adjutants was captured shortly before the end of the war in The Bunker breakout attempt. He was sent to a Soviet labor camp for fourteen years and spent that time in isolation. He was released and met his brother at the checkpoint in West Berlin. His brother took him to a hotel and showed him how the TV worked, while explaining that it would help bring him up to date. The next morning they have breakfast. The ex soldier asks for clarification on what he learned over night. He tells his brother, “So, seven days after my capture, the Grand Admiral surrendered. Germany is divided between the victors with the British, French and Amis controlling the West and the Ruskies the East.” His brother confirms this part so he continues. “Then last year, came a simple American GI to Germany, who was so beloved by both our countries that he was crowned King and his name is Elvis…”

          • David Ashton

            Somehow I think Don McLean’s (original) “American Pie” might have been more suitable for America on this occasion.

        • Hirschibold

          A history professor once told me that up until about 1992, roughly 16,000 biographies had been written about Abraham Lincoln, making him the most written about individual in history. My guess is that, as pathetic as it sounds, Obama will probably best Lincoln before we reach 2020.

          • SintiriNikos

            Wouldn’t surprise me. Many will do it for the moolah, others as ongoing penance for their white racistness.

          • shmo123

            There’s nothing to say about Obama that hasn’t already been said. Any future scrawls about him will be nothing but timelines. He’s done nothing, and is about as deep as a mud puddle.

    • veritas_lux_mea

      And the forthcoming caramel master race.

  • JackKrak

    Did someone say something about a poem?

    • The__Bobster

      There was a Usurper, Obongo
      Who could trace his roots back to the Congo
      We know what he’s for,
      He’s red to the core
      That’s why I voted for Mongo.

      • Tim

        A Marxist, a traitor and an illegal alien walks into a bar…The bartender jumps up and says, What can I get for you , Mr. President?..”

        • dukem1

          What’s the difference between MLK Jr. Day and St. Patricks Day?
          On St. Patricks Day, everyone wants to be Irish.

        • StillModerated

          The original joke is: a moslem, a communist and a homosexual walk into a bar, same ending.

      • dukem1

        Now THAT is poetry, my man!
        Brings back fond memories of a fellow from Nantucket.
        As Mrs. Dukem1 and I say so frequently, everything was better then,

  • Hirschibold

    This guy makes Maya Angelou look like Walt Whitman.

    • Andy

      And he’s STILL far superior to old Elizabeth Alexander (2008’s poet).

    • Oil Can Harry

      99% of free verse poets are talentless.

      No wonder it’s “free verse”- who would pay for it?

  • Robert Binion

    He has a hungry, hangdog style.

    When we are no more, who will tend the beasts tame and wild,

    Who feed the shrunken colt and faded hound?

    One mousy, inconsequential piece of skirt

    Squeaks, “Good morning, Bob.”

    And my chest aches.

    To desire and touch not, to love unseen,

    To love forever–that is what a white man can do.

  • SintiriNikos

    Now she’s eyeless.
    The snakes she held once
    eat up her hands.
    -George Seferis

    (This ‘she’ could be the USA)

  • Tim_in_Indiana

    Rarely has so many words been used to say so leittle.

    Although he did manage to work in a little typical black resentment: “My po’ daddy sho’ did have to work hard to raise us kids…”

  • The__Bobster

    So many words, so little to say.

    No wonder the ceremony ran long.

  • Andy

    Praise Song for the day!!!

  • dukem1

    Other than having the right margin set around the middle of the page, is there any reason to call this poetry?
    I am aware that whatever may be considered poetry these days is strictly for effete academics who have to teach something, but man! What a load!
    Did I miss a metaphor? Simile? Analogy? Symbolism? Image? A creative thought?
    I doubt this moron could win a free beer at a poetry slam for 10th grade spec edders.
    Is the entire United States of America (except you and I, dear reader) this stupid?
    Thanx for posting this, Mr. AmRen poster, I will fall asleep tonight feeling much closer to Mr. Yeats, or Ms. Browning, and so much further from the ignorant rabble.

  • Fighting_Northern_Spirit

    What embarrassingly bad drivel, even putting aside the political implications or content.

    • NM156

      “Doggerel” is the word, no?

  • Robert Ray

    The same sun that hurt my eyes,
    Illuminated brown cow-pies…

  • StillModerated

    wheat sown by sweat and hands …

    Silly poet! That grunt work is done by seed drills now, where have you been hiding, behind a TV screen? Farmers of AmeriKwa, cut off this knucklehead’s food!

    And don’t get me started on coal miners and steelworkers already! That work is not generally done by the rainbow coalition (excepting the Mohawks).

    This is non-rhyming science fiction of the most dumbed-down sort. I guess Blanco’s mom made him slide into the day with some sort of unspeakable lubricant.

  • Lewis33

    The sad bit is that THIS, THIS has replaced Kipling in our schools!

    • Oil Can Harry

      Inner City Public School Teacher: “Okay class, today I’m going to teach you Kipling.”

      The Class: “But we’s don’t be knowing how to kipple!”

  • MekongDelta69

    Blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda…

    There. I’ve shortened it. And it has just as much (i.e. little) meaning.
    Aren’t you glad I’ve saved your eyes again?!

  • shattered

    Flattery, flowery speech, sweet political rhetoric, and appealing propaganda won’t change the truth that in four years we will all be poorer, less free, and more vulnerable.

  • IKantunderstand

    E Unum Pluribus. Would have saved a lot of everyone’s time.

  • bigone4u

    “Poet” Richard Blanco is from a Cuban exile family. He is a double minority in that he is also a homosexual. Leave it to the Dems to make America’s fifth inaugural poet a “queer” (that’s the word the “gay community” loves, so I suppose I can use it?). More of his drivel here in an interview:

    Want to ingratiate yourself to the intelligensia? Write a load of PC nonsense while loudly declaring your minority status. It could be worse though. In a few elections from now, I predict the poets will be angry, calling on blacks to rise up against whites in genocide.

  • scutum

    This is garbage. We need to split into two or three separate nations. We no longer have anything in common with people like this or the rest of the O’Bama accolytes.

  • Puggg

    Does Google yet have a gobbledygewk-to-English translator?

  • Another Limey

    Dear Lord this is utterly, utterly wretched. It’s not so much a civilisational decline as a plummet.

  • shmo123

    More proof that Robert Frost was right, writing verse that does not rhyme (free verse), is like playing tennis without a net. But even rhyming wouldn’t save this gibberish.

  • josh

    I always wondered why Fidel was so popular? Here is a guy who is by how own admission a total failure. A tyrant,whom people dare not say a word against,who keeps his people poor. But they would die for Fidel,fight to the last man. Why? Because Fidel got rid of all these damn CUBANS!!!THIS idiot poet,the other nimrod the sainted Marco Rubio,all them Miami Cubans,vicious and nasty. Hell WE’d be better off with Fidel if he’d drive the Cubanos out of HERE!!

  • josh

    “Saying hello, shalom, buon giorno,howdy…” Howdy? (You’ll note “shalom” gets top billing after hello.This guy must be remembering Rick Sanchez!)

  • Nate Miller

    I don’t get it. It sounds like a beautiful well written Poem to me. What is so wrong about it that it had to make it here on Amren?

  • ~ The Gift Outright ~ Frost read this at Kennedy’s inauguration.

    The land was ours before we were the land’s.

    She was our land more than a hundred years

    Before we were her people. She was ours

    In Massachusetts, in Virginia.

    But we were England’s, still colonials,

    Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,

    Possessed by what we now no more possessed.

    Something we were withholding made us weak.

    Until we found out that it was ourselves

    We were withholding from our land of living,

    And forthwith found salvation in surrender.

    Such as we were we gave ourselves outright

    (The deed of gift was many deeds of war)

    To the land vaguely realizing westward,

    But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,

    Such as she was, such as she would become.

    ~ Robert Frost; 1874-1963 ~

    • kerrysmith

      It’s better than Blanco, but it’s still kind of second-rate, don’t you think? A big woolly mess of words.

  • Anthony Cracolice

    The first openly gay inaugural poet is also singularly untalented. Cliched and about as poetic as a Chinese menu.

  • Gereng

    Frost he ain’t. Sounds more rap than poetry. But I did get the message DIVERSITY IS WONDERFUL so get with the program, Whitey!