Today, the Inaugural Poet, Richard Blanco, read his poem “One Today” at the ceremonial swearing-in ceremony of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Full text of the poem as written is available below:
One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,peeking over the Smokies, greeting the facesof the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truthacross the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a storytold 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 rainbowsbegging 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 didfor 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 explainthe empty desks of twenty children marked absenttoday, and forever. Many prayers, but one lightbreathing color into stained glass windows,life into the faces of bronze statues, warmthonto the steps of our museums and park benchesas mothers watch children slide into the day.
One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalkof corn, every head of wheat sown by sweatand hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmillsin deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, handsdigging trenches, routing pipes and cables, handsas worn as my father’s cutting sugarcaneso my brother and I could have books and shoes.
The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plainsmingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear itthrough the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,buses launching down avenues, the symphonyof 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 openfor each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos díasin the language my mother taught me—in every languagespoken into one wind carrying our liveswithout prejudice, as these words break from my lips.
One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimedtheir majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado workedtheir way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more reportfor the boss on time, stitching another woundor uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,or the last floor on the Freedom Towerjutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.
One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyestired from work: some days guessing at the weatherof our lives, some days giving thanks for a lovethat loves you back, sometimes praising a motherwho knew how to give, or forgiving a fatherwho couldn’t give what you wanted.
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weightof snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,always under one sky, our sky. And always one moonlike a silent drum tapping on every rooftopand every window, of one country—all of us—facing the starshope—a new constellationwaiting for us to map it,waiting for us to name it—together