Poet Richard Blanco Celebrates Valentine’s Day

02.15.22

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, poet Richard Blanco joins Jim and Margery on Boston Public Radio to share a few of his own poems (listed below), each one highlighting significant moments from his love life. He also shares thoughts on poets and love poems that have moved him, including the classic Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Dedications” by Adrienne Rich, and an excerpted reading of “You Are Who I Love” by Aracelis Girmay.

You can follow along with the selected poems here:

“Killing Mark”

His plane went down over Los Angeles
last week (again), or was it Long Island?
Boxer shorts, hair gel, his toothbrush
washed up on the shore at New Haven,
but his body never recovered, I feared.

Monday, he cut off his leg chain sawing-
bled to death slowly while I was shopping
for a new lamp, never heard my messages
on his cell phone: Where are you? Call me!
I told him to be careful. He never listens.

Tonight, fifteen minutes late, I’m sure
he’s hit a moose on Route 26, but maybe
he survived, someone from the hospital
will call me, give me his room number.
I’ll bring his pajamas, some magazines.

5:25: still no phone call, voice mail full.
I turn on the news, wait for the report:
flashes of moose blood, his car mangled,
as I buzz around the bedroom dusting
the furniture, sorting the sock drawer.

Did someone knock? I’m expecting
the sheriff by six o’clock. Mr. Blanco,
I’m afraid . . .he’ll say, hand me a Ziploc
with his wallet, sunglasses, wristwatch.
I’ll invite him in, make some coffee.

6:25: I’ll have to call his mom, explain,
arrange to fly the body back. Do I have
enough garbage bags for his clothes?
I should keep his ties- but his shoes?
Order flowers- roses- white or read?

By seven-thirty I’m taking mental notes
for his eulogy, suddenly adorning all
I’ve hated, ten years worth of nose hairs
in the sink, of lost car keys, of chewing
too loud and hogging the bed sheets,

when Joey yowls, ears to the sound
of footsteps up the drive, and darts
to the doorway, I follow with a scowl:
Where the hell were you? Couldn’t call?
Translation: I die each time I kill you.

Maybe
for Craig

Maybe it was the billboards promising
paradise, maybe those fifty-nine miles
with your hand in mine, maybe my sexy
roadster, the top down, maybe the wind
fingering your hair, sun on your thighs
and bare chest, maybe it was just the ride
over the sea split in two by the highway
to Key Largo, or the idea of Key Largo.
Maybe I was finally in the right place
at the right time with the right person.
Maybe there’d finally be a house, a dog
named Chu, a lawn to mow, neighbors,
dinner parties, and you forever obsessed
with crossword puzzles and Carl Young,
reading in the dark by the moonlight,
at my bedside every night. Maybe. Maybe
it was the clouds paused at the horizon,
the blinding fields of golden sawgrass,
the mangrove islands tangled, inseparable
as we might be. Maybe I should’ve said
something, promised you something,
asked you to stay a while, maybe.

Palmita Mia

You are this:
the free palm
of my rest,
the impatient rain
from your fronds
a river I collect
in my open hands
and bring to my dry
useless lip,
you, my thirst, my water
my tranquil shade.

You are this:
the drawn island lean
I stretch with you,
my back breaks
against your coast,
you are the exile
of my exile
you are the red mountain,
the temperate valley
is my mouth open
waiting for your harvest

You are this:
the green crib
the pulse
loose in open hand,
a hummingbird heart
and the sentinel of still stars,
attentive faith
gaming the praying palms,
a creed of breezes:
coconut wine, loaves of sand
palmita mía.

This episode first aired on Boston Public Radio on February 14th, 2022.
Image credit: Wyron A on Unsplash.com