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January 22nd, 2013
12:25 AM ET

Poet: Hearing Stonewall in Obama's speech was 'Simply amazing'

Richard Blanco is the first Latino and openly gay man to deliver the inaugural poem. Anderson Cooper asks him about the honor, his inspiration for the poem, and the significance of being part of President Obama's swearing-in ceremony. The president made history by acknowledging the struggle for gay rights as part of America's civil rights tradition in his inaugural address.

Read and watch Blanco's poem:

"One Today"

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:
the 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 for all of us today.

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 all 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 café tables, Hear: the doors we open
each day for each other, 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 the 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, 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.

Post by:
Filed under: Gay Rights • Inauguration Day • President Obama
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Eva Hernandez

    Bravo Richard. One more reason for me to be a proud cuban-american. This event shows how we are opening our minds and our hearts to others regardless of creed, race or sexual orientation. I am happy to realize that the new generation is more tolerant and that is precisely, in part, what is going to bring the change we want to see.

    January 23, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
  2. Jennifer

    Beautiful!

    January 23, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  3. Alicia

    That was an absolutey amazing poem ! And he read it so carefully ..without any errors..as if to really purvey the deepest of meaning..very beautiful! Bravo Richard!

    January 23, 2013 at 7:21 am |
  4. Gail Duncan

    Nice. We've come a long way but still have much work to do. I have faith we all will some day see the light of day and the interconnectiveness of us all...our planet.....universe. it's a wish of mine and solemn constant prayer.

    January 22, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
  5. Tom Liebengood

    Beautiful poem and vision of America. So proud of a fellow gay man. Bravo Richard!

    January 22, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
  6. becca

    I was deeply moved by Richard Blanco's poem, deeply moved. How I wish I would have written it. His poem, and title of his most recent book, "Looking for The Gulf Motel," is utterly stunning, too.

    January 22, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
  7. Paul

    I really enjoyed the interview and I am happy for you two and the whole LGBT community. It was easy to tell the inclusion in the president's inauguation speech meant a lot to you. And great poem, Mr. Blanco!

    January 22, 2013 at 7:09 am |
  8. Marie -Carmel Myrlande Baptiste

    Those words really touch me.

    January 22, 2013 at 4:35 am |