Richard Blanco to Read at Obama’s Second Inauguration

Richard Blanco [Photo Source:]
Richard Blanco [Photo Credit: Nicco Tucci]
Poet Richard Blanco has been selected to read at President Obama’s inauguration on Monday, January 21st, one day after the official swearing in. From the interview on NPR:

“My mother … was seven months pregnant with me when she left Cuba, and at that time, in 1968, since there were no diplomatic relations, everybody had to go through what they called a third country, so we ended up in Spain. Forty-five days later I was born, and a few weeks after that, we got in a plane and immigrated once more to New York City. So by the time I was about 2 or 3 months old, I had figuratively and literally been in three countries, and could probably have claimed citizenship in any one of the three at that moment. And then eventually when I was about 3 or 4 we settled down in Miami. And it’s kind of, you know, as I look back on my life, as we all do, you kind of think, ‘Is this some kind … of foreshadowing, of course, of what my work as a poet would be obsessed with?’ This whole idea of place and identity and what’s home and what’s not home, and which is in some ways such an American question that we’ve been asking since, you know, since [Walt] Whitman, trying to put that finger on America.”

While it is indeed moving to see a Latino, gay man of my own age reading in the ceremony (It shows how far we have come), what is truly moving is the man’s poetry itself. I mean I am all for diversity, but I would not be happy if we sacrificed quality for it. We haven’t done that with Mr. Blanco.  Below is his reading of  “My Mother Picking Produce,” from his website, where you can enjoy more.


She scratches the oranges then smells the peel,
presses an avocado just enough to judge its ripeness,
polishes the Macintoshes searching for bruises.
She selects with hands that have thickened, fingers
that have swollen with history around the white gold
of a wedding ring she now wears as a widow.
Unlike the archived photos of young, slender digits
captive around black and white orange blossoms,
her spotted hands now reaching into the colors.
I see all the folklore of her childhood, the fields,
the fruit she once picked from the very tree,
the wiry roots she pulled out of the very ground.
And now, among the collapsed boxes of yucca,
through crumbling pyramids of golden mangos,
she moves with the same instinct and skill.
This is how she survives death and her son,
on these humble duties that will never change,
on those habits of living which keep a life a life.
She holds up red grapes to ask me what I think,
and what I think is this, a new poem about her–
the grapes look like dusty rubies in her hands,
what I say is this: they look sweet, very sweet.

24 Replies to “Richard Blanco to Read at Obama’s Second Inauguration”

    1. Hey, Andy! Thank you for checking it out.And because the 20th is a Sunday, the ceremonies are moved to Monday the 21st, which just so happens to be Martin Luther King Jr. day! Seems pretty appropriate. 🙂


  1. David, i like the poem a lot and the reading even more…i felt every lines and kind of speaks to me of a similar past… Blanco’s poem has such descriptive power and appeal giving me a chance to touch his imagery in a very tangible way… Ah, something in me wants to read more of his poetry…thank goodness you brought up a link to him…i will pop up next after here… And that ending line was delivered & sounded very innocently and now i am touched…touched deeply. Smiles…


    1. I’m so glad you liked it. He has a marvelous voice, doesn’t he? Yes, I plan on doing a lot more reading of his stuff too. He has other poems of his on Soundcloud too.


    1. Ah, you should read his poem “America.” Better yet, read it with his voice reading in the background. Just follow the links above in the post and you’ll find it. But maybe I’ll do a pre-inaugural blog post about that one. It’s about Thanksgiving, and how his family served pork, and as a small child learning about our history, he encourages them to make Turkey. It’s longer, but so rich and wonderful. It makes you feel like you were there.
      Thanks for coming by, dear!


  2. I found it to be one of those poems you can imagine standing there watching unfold rather than hearing the words… I don’t know if that makes sense 🙂


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