where motor boats can’t go but it’s easy in a kayak, and so most afternoons I slip under to the place where the same thing happens as occurs in the Blue Grotto off the coast of Capri, there the blue of the sky reflected off the white-sand bottom, the color intensified in the waters of that cavern, how the first and only time I was in Capri I was fourteen years old, and now when I kayak under the bridge it’s like being there again only here the light shocks the water an electric green, almost neon, the water so bright that each time I come I feel as if I’ve floated into heaven despite the sleeping bags, the pair of men’s rubber boots, the ratty possessions, everything someone owns crammed into less than two feet of overhead space, and each time I come to be dazzled I am reminded that this is not heaven, this is a world where some men live under bridges, some men are shot as they drive home with the people they love, some of us are granted admittance to unspeakable beauty as teenagers. This is a world where if one of us is lost, all of us are lost.
Here's a collection of all the past work to appear on this site.
I paint my nails mint in an attempt to cool myself. High winds and the Strawberry Moon paddle is canceled. At the all-day retreat at Deer Park, the lama tell us we must wish that all sentient beings have the tools to achieve happiness. Bub, look around, I silently think. We are of a nature to burn. We have not gone beyond burning. Behind me, the kid with the prayer wheel like a god with a world.
Thursday & a bird has once again built its nest in the stoplight on Regent. O feathered sister, in the moment when this mechanized sun goes silent, does your 460 beats per minute heart beat even faster as you await the return of the light, the yellow winking every third interval? Is that why you are here again, drawn to this halogen yolk, this incontrovertible that blasts you w/its radiance, each day simply a matter of seconds & then darkness, repeat, or am I thinking of it all wrong, am I letting the darkness that we can't seem to escape cloud my heart? O to live in your jerry-rigged world— each day composed of thousands of dawns, each one a fresh start!
Yesterday while skimming an article on the 14 characteristics of such regimes, I stumble on this description of fascism: We no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing— he simply wakes one morning to find it is over his head. Yes. The way I do not sense the 500 calories cut each day as recommended by the sports nutritionist, yet one evening after blanching asparagus as I sit to eat from my plate like a rainbow (the wild salmon, the pickled beets with goat cheese!), a small child is being carried down a mountainside in Yemen, the child with a seeping head wound, or in one day’s time how many texts, how many emails, how many of your long brown hairs still on the bathroom tile though you’ve been gone for months, and as I drop yet another in the trash, Barber's Adagio for Strings is broadcast once again over a city square in England; each night on my couch with my tablet, watching the series in which a lesbian is hung from a crane, and as I power down the screen, halfway around the world two men are caned, lashed 82 times for sharing a bed. I brush my teeth because here at least thanks to Madison Avenue I am conscious of the subtle dulling of enamel, the slow graying, while in an apartment building in Mosul more than a hundred civilians are killed by us. And there’s my own callousness, the terrible joke I made to friends almost a decade ago after a night club fire. Where did it come from, this cruel soil in me that nourished such darkness— the unnoticed leaking from the garbage disposal until the whole kitchen is flooded with dirty water. And the musician of whom reports say he battled it his whole life only to believe there was no other way. It’s true. There is no other way, and spring does come, falling asleep to the heavy sweetness of the small white flowers on the orange tree in the living room, the thing fluttering in my chest for no discernible reason, and I stop and wonder how the moon can be full again so soon, why at times is it so hard to notice this dazzling pendulum swinging through the sky?
How often in life do we get an answer? Berryman to the young poet Merwin at Princeton: If you need to know, don’t write. Yet here it is this morning in my checking account, proof that you did indeed get my letter, your signature incontrovertible, the money withdrawn, like last night’s top story on the local news of a young black child and the white officer who responded after a bullet tore through the family’s living room window, the hole fist-sized, celestial in shape, the child writing the officer a thank-you note even though no one was caught, and it takes me a long moment to realize what the child is thankful for, and I have to say it’s not nothing, someone arriving in the middle of the night to tell you we will protect you, you matter, even when the evidence right there in your living room says anything but.
The morning after the morning of November eighth, for the first time I doubt even the sun as I drive east down Main Street—radio off— to Amy’s diner. She bobby-pins her hair, smiles her usual good mornin’ but her eyes askew say something like: You believe this? as she pours my coffee without a blink. Three cups—black— and a muffin in me. | So I head up Prospect to see Tom at my bank, cash a measly check from some grand magazine for some grand poem of mine loaded with some grand words like transcend, as if my inked verbs could bend a river’s will, shuffle stars, change the fate of our nation, or the color of Tom’s eyes thinking what I think of our reflection on the bullet proof window, asking: So now what, Mr. Poet? I can’t answer us. I can only remember today I’m supposed to buy a rake, light bulbs, nails to hang my dying mother’s photos. | So I stop at Poe’s Hardware, see Mikey who knows me and what I need. He rings me up, doesn’t say Goodbye, says Good luck, as if his eyes can see the uncertain grey in my own, worried about my immigrant cousin, polar bears, factory jobs, women, missiles, race. And all the rest, resting on the afternoon, after the afternoon of November eighth. I have bills due by the fifteenth. | So I go to the post office, those American Flag stamps are all Debbie has left. I refuse to buy them— a Never mind in my eyes that she dismisses with a Suit yourself. My bills can wait, but not my dog’s treats or the milk I ran out of. | So I cross back over to the Food Basket on Main. Also: onions, mustard, oranges, steak tips at the checkout. Paper or plastic, Jan asks, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is this: she’s been to my bar-b-ques, I’ve donated to her son’s football league, we’ve shoveled each other’s driveways, we send each other Christmas cards. She knows I’m Latino and gay. Yet suddenly I don’t know who she is as I read the button on her polyester vest: Trump: Make America Great Again, meaning she doesn’t really know me either. We manage smiles when she hands me my change, but our locked eyes say: nothing. | So I drive home to my hillside. By dinnertime I’m still not hungry. I’m numb, as hopeless as I am drowsy. | So here I am: slumped in my sofa gathering the last seconds of the sun, here the first snowfall begins, and here the light lingers, possesses each flake, set aflicker— like a hundred crystalline eyes urging me to trust I’ll survive every season. | So here, all’s wrong with the world tonight, but here: I have marches to march, poems left to write, and my eyes to keep saying, No, until all passes as it must pass, on some other morning after the morning of some other November eighth.
To hear Richard Blanco read “November Eyes on Main Street,” please click here:
To hear an extended interview with Richard Blanco on To the Best of Our Knowledge, click here: