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 café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, 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 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
I've been sampling many blogs covering "One Today," and I'm bowled over by the number of writers who panned it outright (although some found some good things within it to focus on as well). I'm suddenly aware of what an overwhelming task it must have been, being asked (being honored) to provide some poetic words of insight that, once received, would at once, by the numbers, be pithed like a frog for dissection, get mounted on a slide, and jammed unceremoniously under the microscopic lenses of all the nation's critics, major religions, ethnic groups, political parties, media networks, sexual orientations, and what-have-you. How daunting is that? I wouldn't want an assignment like that. I wouldn't know where to begin.
I would enjoy, however, having the opportunity to ask Mr. Blanco's harshest critics to submit drafts of what they would have written, having been similarly honored.
But anyway, simply keeping within the character of my humble old high school English teacher self, I for one applaud the poem. I enjoyed the "pencil-yellow school buses" laden with their multi-colored cargo like some "fruit stands" with their "apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows," because aren't we all pretty much just various color fruits of life? And I like that reference to us as "rainbows" which, after all, are traditional symbols of Hope and Promise, which is also alluded to at the conclusion of the poem as "a constellation waiting for us to map it, waiting for us to name it-- together." And in the third verse, I like the further imagery of all of us as the various pieces of glass in "stained glass windows" with our "one light breathing color into" them.
Blanco's vantage point throughout the piece, for me personally, is like that of a window in a space station, passing not only over the United States, but orbiting once all the way around the earth, looking down upon people with no real boundaries between them, upon their "hello, shalom, buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos dias," and all the sounds of their industry ("honking cabs, buses launching...screeching subways..." sounding identical from that point in space.
No poet on earth could write a poem that would please everybody, or even garner an approving majority perhaps, but what's wrong with a poem that attempts to re-focus us (from all the divisiveness and all the mean-spirited violence we are often guilty of aiming at one another) upon Hope?
I don't know why, but for some reason that little song from South Pacific just came to my mind, "You've Got to be Taught"...
You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!