Saturday, January 19, 2013

Obama inaugural poet, Richard Blanco, gay son of Cuban exiles, reads his poem about betting on the Miss America pageant

Miss Ohio, Susan
Perkins, crowned
Miss America in
September, 1977,
the year Blanco
turned eight.
My grandmother was the bookie, set up at the kitchen table that night...
     I dug up enough change from the sofa and car seats to bet on Miss Wisconsin, thinking I was as American as she, because I was as blond as she was and I knew that's where ALL the cheese came from...
     Americanos all have skinny butts he [papa] complained... Everyone agreed, except for me and my little cousin Julito, who apparently was a breast man at age 5, reaching for Miss Alabama's bosom on the screen...

     Bert Parks leading Miss Ohio, the new Miss America, by the hand to the runway...No one bet on her and none of us, not even me, could answer mama when she asked, "Donde esta Ohio?"

Blanco on the first of his three books:
A few years ago I went to Marco Island wanting to revisit my childhood memoires of vacationing there. But after decades of development, I hardly recognized the place. It was as if "my" Marco Island — and part of me — had disappeared. I found myself filled with the same kind of longing and nostalgia that my parents had for their lost Cuba. Dismayed I wrote this poem in response, which eventually became the inspiration for the entire collection by the same name. The encounter made me realize, once again, the endless wellspring that family is for me.

Marco Island, Florida

...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.

Left: the highrises on the Marco Island beachfront whose long shadows Blanco, a civil engineer before he became a poet, blames for ruining the beach and his past.
     The one at the bottom, called The Tradewinds, was built in 1972 at an angle to the beach, so as to be perfectly aimed at sunsets, or so many have assumed. In fact, the Mackle Brothers subcontracted the building's design to an outside firm, but their building plan was too wide for the lot. Instead of a months-long redesign, the building was turned slightly to fit the property.

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