Saturday, February 23, 2013

Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco in Miami

"Well, I think we're finally American" Richard Blanco said to his mother after reading his poem at President Obama's inauguration  on January 21, 2013

I saw Richard Blanco at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami this past Friday.  Richard Blanco describes himself as being made in Cuba, born in Spain and growing up in Cuban Miami. Blanco now lives in Bethel Maine with his partner. Blanco's American journey is fascinating yet also inspiring. His poems are a prism of how he sees  life.  Life as an immigrant living in Miami. Life as a gay man, and life as an American growing up in the late 20th century.

Blanco read  some poetry  from (City of a Hundred Fires, Directions to The Beach of the Dead, and Looking for The Gulf Motel). He also read his inaugural poem.

Blanco described how he was picked to be the official poet for President Obama's address. Blanco stated that he did not apply for the position, but was chosen. He described how he read the address in Washington and then turned to his Cuban born mother with limited English skills and said " Well, I think We're finally American". 

My favorite poem was this, which he read:

Looking for The Gulf Motel

Marco Island, Florida

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

The Gulf Motel with mermaid lampposts 
and ship's wheel in the lobby should still be 
rising out of the sand like a cake decoration. 
My brother and I should still be pretending 
we don't know our parents, embarrassing us 
as they roll the luggage cart past the front desk 
loaded with our scruffy suitcases, two-dozen 
loaves of Cuban bread, brown bags bulging 
with enough mangos to last the entire week, 
our espresso pot, the pressure cooker—and 
a pork roast reeking garlic through the lobby. 
All because we can't afford to eat out, not even 
on vacation, only two hours from our home 
in Miami, but far enough away to be thrilled 
by whiter sands on the west coast of Florida, 
where I should still be for the first time watching 
the sun set instead of rise over the ocean.

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

My mother should still be in the kitchenette 
of The Gulf Motel, her daisy sandals from Kmart 
squeaking across the linoleum, still gorgeous 
in her teal swimsuit and amber earrings 
stirring a pot of arroz-con-pollo, adding sprinkles 
of onion powder and dollops of tomato sauce. 
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.

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

My brother and I should still be playing Parcheesi
my father should still be alive, slow dancing 
with my mother on the sliding-glass balcony 
of The Gulf Motel. No music, only the waves 
keeping time, a song only their minds hear 
ten-thousand nights back to their life in Cuba. 
My mother's face should still be resting against 
his bare chest like the moon resting on the sea, 
the stars should still be turning around them.

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

My brother should still be thirteen, sneaking 
rum in the bathroom, sculpting naked women 
from sand. I should still be eight years old 
dazzled by seashells and how many seconds 
I hold my breath underwater—but I'm not. 
I am thirty-eight, driving up Collier Boulevard, 
looking for The Gulf Motel, for everything 
that should still be, but isn't. I want to blame 
the condos, their shadows for ruining the beach 
and my past, I want to chase the snowbirds away 
with their tacky mansions and yachts, I want 
to turn the golf courses back into mangroves, 
I want to find The Gulf Motel exactly as it was 
and pretend for a moment, nothing lost is lost.

After listening to Richard Blanco, my buddy Jay, and I went to Little Havana to our favorite restaurant "Versailles Restaurant" for a little cafecito and a light dinner!  Always worth the trip "Versailles" is open late and is lively with many Cuban-Americans dining, drinking and enjoying late night pastries and coffee!

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