Richard Blanco Poem

http://pandapapers.blogspot.com/2013/01/one-today-inaugural-poem-by-richard.html

At 44, Blanco is the youngest poet, as well as the first Latino and the first openly gay poet to take part in an inaugural ceremony. I choked up when he read about 20 kids that will forever be marked absent.

 

One Today
 
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 2
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 3
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

 

 
 

5th Grader’s Poem: ‘He Loved America Both Good and Bad’

5th Grader’s Poem: ‘He Loved America Both Good and Bad’

By Mary Ann Zehr on June 2, 2011

Education Week

A California 5th grader’s poem about her grandfather, an immigrant from China, has been selected as the winning entry for the “Celebrate America” contest sponsored by the Washington-based American Immigration Council.

With the contest, volunteer attorneys visit 5th grade classrooms to talk about immigration and provide information about the competition. This year’s judges included big names such as Randi Weingarten, the president of the America Federation for Teachers, and U.S. Senator Dan Inouye, a Democrat from Hawaii.

Maya Young Wong, a student at Castelar Elementary School in Altadena, Calif., based her winning poem on the life of her “Grandfather Ben,” who died before she was born, but whose life was honored in stories told to Maya by her grandmother.

I like how the poem reflects Maya’s understanding that her grandfather’s life wasn’t easy in the United States. When it came to jobs, “chances for Chinese were least to fewest,” she says. After getting shot as a soldier in World War II, she writes, “He didn’t win any fame or medals/Just came back home to wed and settle.”

She concludes, “He loved America both good and bad.”

My Grand Father Ben: 2011 National Grand Prize Winning Entry

From China sailed my Grandfather Ben.
He came to America when he was four plus ten.
His Guangzhou village was small and poor
And he helped his mother with farming chores.
Every morning he gathered bits of firewood
And drew water from the well as much as he could.
From morning to night he slaved like an ox.
But it was never enough to fill the rice box.
So his parents said, “You’d better leave home
And go to America where you can roam”.
Until you find a great place of your own.
America, Gold Mountain, is the place to go
Big and wide, and high and low.
Everything is yes, and there are never any nos.

But here in America life was hard
And it wasn’t like a birthday card.
Golden Mountain didn’t have jobs
For Chinese men, and that made them sob.
From San Francisco to Saint Louis
Chances for Chinese were least to fewest.
Still his heart never gave way
Cause he knew hard work always pays.
So Grandpa Ben worked hard again.
Slaving in a laundry from five to ten.
And he lived in important USA times
Starting from cool Jazz Age crime
Right on down to the Great Depression’s
Brother can you spare a dime.
Until finally his big chance came
To show American and Chinese are the same.
He joined the army in World War II
And fought in Europe for the red, white and blue.
All over he fought bringing supplies
To American soldiers on the lines.
Until one day he was shot in the back
And his jeep flipped over and he got smacked.
He didn’t win any fame or medals
Just came back home to wed and settle.

Still to me he is The Greatest Hero.
Cause he never gave up and never said no.
He loved America both good and bad
And taught his 5 kids not to be sad.
Work hard, dream big, and never give up.
And one day Gold Mountain will live up
To what is written on the Statue of Liberty
Chances for all and the gift to be free.

To my Chinese Grandfather,
Whom I love and honor.

To all the teachers I know who have made—-and continue to make—–tremendous difference in people’s lives.

     To all the teachers I know who have made—-and continue to make—–tremendous difference in people’s lives.

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.  One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, ‘What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option
in life was to become a teacher?’

He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers:
‘Those  who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.’  To stress his point he said to another guest;  ‘You’re a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?’

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied,  ‘You want to know what I make?
‘Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a  C+ feel like the Order of Canada.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents
can’t make them sit for 5 without an I Pod, Game Cube or movie rental.

You want to know what I make?’ (She paused again and looked at each and  every person at the table.)

”I make kids wonder.
I make them question.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.
I teach them to write and then I make them write.  Keyboarding isn’t everything.
I make them read, read, read.
I make them show all their work in maths.  They use their God-given brain, not the man-made calculator.
I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to
know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity.
I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.
I make my students stand respectfully during O Canada because we live in a peaceful, law-abiding country.

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were
given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.’

(Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)

‘Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money
isn’t everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because
they  are ignorant… You want to know what I make?

I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make, Mr. CEO?’

His jaw dropped as he went silent.

THIS IS WORTH SENDING TO EVERY TEACHER YOU KNOW.

Even all your personal teachers like mothers, fathers, brothers,
sisters, grandparents, and your spiritual teachers , too.

A PRAYER FOR THE CHILDREN

A PRAYER FOR THE CHILDREN

 

We are responsible for children

who put chocolate fingers everywhere

who like to be tickled,

who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants.

Who sneak Popsicles before supper,

who erase holes in math workbooks,

who can never find their shoes.

And we are responsible for those

who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire

who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers

who never get dessert,

who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,

who watch their parents watch them die,

who can’t find any bread to steal,

who don’t have any roots to clean up,

whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,

whose monsters are real.

We are responsible for children

who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,

who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their

food,

who like ghost stores,

who shove dirty clothes under the bed, and never rinse out

the tub,

who get visits from the tooth fairy,

who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool,

who squirm in church and scream in the phone,

whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles

make us cry.

And we are responsible for those

whose nightmares come in the daytime,

who will eat anything,

who have never seen a dentist,

who aren’t spoiled by anybody.

who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,

who live and move, but have no being.

We are responsible for children who want to be carried and for

those who must,

For those we never give up and for those who don’t get a

second chance.

For those we smother…and for those who will grab the hand

anybody kind enough to offer it.

 

Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)