Say This Isn't The End: A Poem for Sunday – Richard Blanco

… say we live on, say we’ll forget the masks

that kept us from dying from the invisible,

but say we won’t ever forget the invisible

masks we realized we had been wearing

most our lives, disguising ourselves from

each other. Say we won’t veil ourselves again,

that our souls will keep breathing timelessly,

that we won’t return to clocking our lives

with lists and appointments. Say we’ll keep

our days errant as sun showers, impulsive

as a star’s falling. Say this isn’t our end …

… say I’ll get to be as thrilled as a boy spinning

again in my barber’s chair, tell him how

I’d missed his winged scissors chirping

away my shaggy hair eclipsing my eyes,

his warm clouds of foam, the sharp love

of his razor’s tender strokes on my beard.

Say I’ll get more chances to say more than

thanks, Shirley at the checkout line, praise

her turquoise jewelry, her son in photos

taped to her register, dare to ask about

her throat cancer. Say this isn’t her end …

… say my mother’s cloudy eyes won’t die

from the goodbye kiss I last gave her, say

that wasn’t our final goodbye, nor will we

be stranded behind a quarantine window

trying to see our refracted faces beyond

the glare, read our lips, press the warmth

of our palms to the cold glass. Say I won’t

be kept from her bedside to listen to her

last words, that we’ll have years to speak

of the decades of our unspoken love that

separated us. Say this isn’t how we’ll end …

… say all the restaurant chairs will get back

on their feet, that we’ll all sit for another

lifetime of savoring all we had never fully

savored: the server as poet reciting flavors

not on the menu, the candlelight flicker

as appetizer, friends’ spicy gossip and rich,

saucy laughter, sharing entrées of memories

no longer six feet apart, our beloved’s lips

as velvety as the wine, the dessert served

sweet in their eyes. Say this is no one’s end …

… say my husband and I will keep on honing

our home cooking together, find new recipes

for love in the kitchen: our kisses and tears

while dicing onions, eggs cracking in tune

to Aretha’s croon, dancing as we heat up

the oven. Say we’ll never stop feasting on

the taste of our stories, sweet or sour, but

say our table will never be set for just one,

say neither of us dies, many more Cheers!

to our good health. Say we will never end …

… say we’ll all still take the time we once

needed to walk alone and gently through

our neighborhoods, keep noticing the Zen

of anthills and sidewalk cracks blossoming

weeds, of yappy dogs and silent swing sets

rusting in backyards, of neat hedges hiding

mansions and scruffy lawns of boarded-up

homes. Say we won’t forget our seeing

that every kind of life is a life worth living,

worth saving. Say this is nobody’s end …

… or say this will be my end, say the loving

hands of gloved, gowned angels risking

their lives to save mine won’t be able to

keep me here. Say this is the last breath

of my last poem, will of my last thoughts:

I’ve witnessed massive swarms of fireflies

grace my garden like never before, drawn

to the air cleansed of our arrogant greed,

their glow a flashback to the time before

us, omen of Earth without us, a reminder

we’re never immune to nature. I say this

might be the end we’ve always needed

to begin again. I say this may be the end

to let us hope to heal, to evolve, reach

the stars. Again I’ll say: heal, evolve, reach

and become the stars that became us—

whether or not this is or is not our end.

 

 

 

RICHARD BLANCO

RICHARD BLANCO

Richard Blanco was selected by President Obama as the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history; he is the youngest and the first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Born in Madrid to Cuban exile parents and raised in Miami, he is the author of memoirs and many collections of poetry, including his most recent, How to Love a Country.

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