Monday morning I happened to notice our neighbor’s flag hung in honor of MLK Day and probably the inauguration. At first I walked past it, then something in the way the early light shone through the flag caught my eye. I paused to capture the moment before moving on into my day. I didn’t think much about the luminous flag until I heard Richard Blanco, the inaugural poet, read his poem, “One Today.”
I had never heard of Richard Blanco until I saw him on TV for the second inauguration of President Obama. He’s a civil engineer-turned-poet from Maine who was Cuban born, and the youngest inaugural poet to be selected. His poem began with these lines:
“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:”
His poem spoke of the “one light” we move through in our days, the “one ground” rooting us to everything and everyone on our planet. He mentioned teachers, truck drivers, and grocery clerks like his mother who worked at her job for twenty years so her sons could receive a good education. Richard Blanco’s words described our breath as the “one wind” that mingles our lives and the “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.” He ended with these words about our future: “all of us, facing the stars, hope–a new constellation waiting for us to map it, waiting for us to name it–together.”
Since Monday, I have returned over and over to his exquisite poem. I believe strongly in the one light, the one ground, the one sky, the one breath we all share. We are at a point in history when it’s imperative that we all awaken to the light in our own hearts, and to that of others. The smallest acts of kindness, the daily decisions to support our planet’s sustainability, all matter. I believe it is a time when the efforts of the whole are greater than the sum of the parts. Jane Kenyon, another poet, once wrote: “The poet’s job is to put into words those feelings we all have that are so deep, so important, and yet so difficult to name, to tell the truth in such a beautiful way, that people cannot live without it.” I would say Richard Blanco successfully told his truth such that we can all, with renewed inspiration, tap into our one light and one today.