Friday, January 11, 2013

Poem of the Week: Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco
We were excited to hear that Split This Rock friend Richard Blanco had been chosen as the 2013 Inaugural Poet. Richard's poems have been an indispensable guide to growing up Cuban American and gay for many years. We recommend to you his three books, including Looking for the Gulf Motel, from which this week's poem is drawn. Congratulations to President Obama for his inclusive view of America and for his brilliant choice.

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.

-Richard Blanco
From Looking for The Gulf Motel (University of Pittsburgh Press). Copyright © 2012 by Richard Blanco. Used by permission of Stuart Bernstein Representation for Artists, New York, NY and protected by the Copyright Laws of the United States. All rights reserved.  

Author photo by: Nico Tucci 

Richard Blanco's acclaimed first book, City of a Hundred Fires, explores the yearnings and negotiation of cultural identity as a Cuban-American, and received the prestigious Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press (1998). His second book, Directions to The Beach of the Dead (University of Arizona Press, 2005) won the 2006 PEN / American Beyond Margins Award for its continued exploration of the universal themes of home and place. His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. Blanco is recipient of two Florida Artist Fellowships, a Residency Fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and is a John Ciardi Fellow of the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. A builder of cities as well as poems, he holds a bachelors of science degree in Civil Engineering and a Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing.  Blanco is the 2013 Inaugural Poet.


Poem of the Week is a project of Split This Rock: Poetry of Provocation & Witness. Split This Rock is dedicated to integrating poetry into public life and supporting the poets who write and perform this vital work.

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If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.   

1 comment:

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

I so wish Obama had chosen one of our fine Native American poets for this. Blanco too is a fine poet, as this post indicates, but when we talk about inclusiveness, who are the most excluded in our cultural and literary consciousness?