Op-Ed

Richard Blanco: One Pulse — One Poem

Here, sit at my kitchen table, we need to write this together. Take a sip of café con leche, breathe in the steam and our courage to face this page, bare as our pain. Curl your fingers around mine, curled around my pen, hold it like a talisman in our hands shaking, eyes swollen. But let’s not start with tears, or the flashing lights, the sirens, nor the faint voice over the cell phone when you heard “I love you …” for the very last time. No, let’s ease our way into this, let our first lines praise the plenitude of morning, the sun exhaling light into the clouds. Let’s imagine songbirds flocked at my window, hear them chirping a blessing in Spanish: bendición-bendición-bendición.

Begin the next stanza with a constant wind trembling every palm tree, yet steadying our minds just enough to write out: bullets, bodies, death — the vocabulary of violence raging in our minds, but still mute, choked in our throats. Leave some white space for a moment of silence, then fill it with lines repeating the rhythms pulsing through Pulse that night — salsa, deep house, electro, merengue, and techno heartbeats mixed with gunshots. Stop the echoes of that merciless music with a tender simile to honor the blood of our blood, without writing blood. Use warm words to describe the cold bodies of our husbands, lovers, and wives, our sisters, brothers and friends. Draw a metaphor so we can picture the choir of their invisible spirits rising with the smoke toward disco lights, imagine ourselves dancing with them until the very end.

Write one more stanza — now. Set the page ablaze with the anger in the hollow ache of our bones — anger for the new hate, same as the old kind of hate for the wrong skin color, for the accent in a voice, for the love of those we’re not supposed to love. Anger for the voice of politics armed with lies, fear that holds democracy at gunpoint. But let’s not end here. Turn the poem, find details for the love of the lives lost, still alive in photos — spread them on the table, give us their wish-filled eyes glowing over birthday candles, their unfinished sand castles, their training-wheels, Mickey Mouse ears, tiaras. Show their blemished yearbook faces, silver-teeth smiles and stiff prom poses, their tasseled caps and gown, their first true loves. And then share their very last selfies. Let’s place each memory like a star, the light of their past reaching us now, and always, reminding us to keep writing until we never need to write a poem like this again.

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