The Jan. 22 Post provided exhaustive and outstanding coverage of the inauguration ceremonies, but I was surprised to find only one passing reference to Richard Blanco’s moving poem, “One Today”: In his TV review, Hank Stuever, without identifying the poem or poet, disparagingly asked, “Was that even poetry?” [“With moments to savor, NBC had the surest touch,” Style].
Delivered soon after President Obama’s inaugural address, the poem beautifully mirrored the president’s message of national unity and common purpose. In simple but stirring language, Blanco captured the extraordinary diversity — geographic, ethnic and economic — of our unique country of opportunity, yet also projected, as we live our daily lives from one sunrise to sunset, the image of one nation, sharing the same humanity and destiny.
Please correct this omission by printing Blanco’s poem and having a qualified literary critic give it the review it deserves.
David M. Cohen, Chevy Chase
Richard Blanco may not be a household name but I found his inaugural poem moving and meaningful. His personal history enhanced the experience and was reflected in the poem. I was puzzled and dismayed that, in the dozens of inaugural stories in the next day’s Post, there was hardly a mention of Blanco or his poem.
Thanks to the Internet, I was able to get the text of the poem and share it with your readers:
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.
David L. Perlman, Silver Spring
I am an independent; I am a moderate; I voted for Mitt Romney; but no matter what, your Jan. 22 special section on the president’s inauguration went totally overboard. It was a shrine to the president and an obvious, blatant testimonial to your political bias. I would consider canceling my subscription, but my husband loves your sports coverage.
Lucille M. Sparrow, Salisbury, Md.
How refreshing to see a photo of the Bible on the front page of the Jan. 21 Post, showing President Obama’s swearing-in [“The dawn of a second term”], as well as on Page A5, in a photo of Vice President Biden’s tattered Bible. Even though they may appear only every four years for inaugurations, kudos for reminding us how rooted is our country’s foundation and legacy to such moral truths and principles. How remarkable and providential that the honoring of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. coincided with the inauguration.
May we not shelve the Bible for another four years but rather hold it close in mind as we move forward morally and justly in this 21st century.
Joseph Bozik, Washington
The article about the pending retirement from the Marine Band of Master Gunnery Sgt. D. Michael Ressler [“Nearing the end of the line,” Metro, Jan. 19] was an excellent portrait of a dedicated musician and public servant. The brief history of the band and description of John Philip Sousa, its most famous director, provided color and context. Too bad one of the photo captions missed the mark. The band members pictured were carrying sousaphones, not tubas. Semper Fi, Gunny, and thank you for your service.
Douglas Ochs Adler, Washington
The first thing I noticed when I pulled out the Jan. 22 Style section was the word “enormity” used incorrectly in the first sentence of the article “Their second dance”: “The enormity of the occasion met the enormity of the room.”
The context makes clear that writers intended “enormity” to mean large or spacious. But “enormity” means atrociousness, horror, evil or wickedness, to name a few synonyms. Some dictionaries accept its use as being similar to “enormous,” although this is not the first definition.
I suggest using “large” or another synonym, to avoid this jarring use of “enormity” to describe a celebratory event. The fact that many people may use a word incorrectly does not make it correct.
John Heggestad, Washington