There should be nothing here I don’t remember...

Poet Richard Blanco has three firsts - firts Latino, first immigrant and first openly gay poet to read at a presidential inauguration. Photo by Sam Farzaneh.

by Sally Gilbert
Legal Columnist

Once in a while, a poet or a poem catches my attention. It has been awhile. At the presidential inauguration in January 2013, it was Richard Blanco reading his poem One Today that caught my attention. It was a prayer for us all. We have different skin colors, religions, sexual orientation and politics. Yet we all share the same todays in different time zones and different geographies.

My favorite stanza:      

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.

Blanco is the fifth poet to read their poem at an inauguration. Robert Frost was the first when John Kennedy took the oath. Maya Angelou read at Bill Clinton’s second inauguration. She was the first woman and first African American inaugural poet. Richard Blanco has three firsts - first Latino, first immigrant and first openly gay poet to read at a presidential inauguration.

Blanco’s family fled Cuba in 1957 for Spain when his mother was seven months pregnant with Richard. Within a year, the family came to America. They started in New York but ultimately settled in Miami. Blanco says he “was made in Cuba, assembled in Spain and imported to the United States.”

Many literary awards have been given to Blanco. He won the 2015 Lambda “Lammy” award for Gay Memoir for The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood. (Cucuyos are lightening bugs in Oklahoma-speak.) The book of prose was published in 2014. He won the 2013 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry for his 2012 book of poems, Looking for the Gulf Motel.

I bought the book shortly after the inauguration. Blanco notes that he wrote the title poem in Marco Island, Florida where his family had vacationed thirty years earlier. It recalls a time in the mid-60’s when he and his brother played Parcheesi and his parents danced on the motel balcony to the music of the ocean. Blanco writes: 

There should be nothing here I don’t remember …

My father should still be in a terrycloth jacket

smoking, clinking a glass of amber whiskey

in the sunset at the Gulf Motel, watching us

dive into the pool, two boys he’ll never see

grow into men who will be proud of him.

The poem nostalgically ends:

I want to find The Gulf Motel exactly as it was

and pretend for a moment, nothing lost is lost.

Celebrate May and read a poem!

The Gayly – May 11, 2016 @ 4:20 p.m.