Artifact: Excerpt of Since Unfinished by Richard Blanco
“I’ve been writing this since
the woman I slept with the night
of my father’s wake, since
my grandmother first called me
a faggot and I said nothing, since
I forgave her and my body
pressed hard against Michael
on the dance floor at Twist, since
the years spent with a martini
and men I knew I couldn’t love.
I’ve been writing this since
the night I pulled off the road
at Big Sur and my eyes caught
the insanity of the stars, since
the months by the kitchen window
watching the snow come down
like fallout from a despair I had
no word for, since I stopped
searching for a name and found
myself tick-tock in a hammock
asking nothing of the sky.”
Identification:Written in 2012, a year before Blanco was invited to be the United States’s fifth inaugural poet, this poem explores how different moments in his life have inspired him to write, and how writing is a lifelong process. In this excerpt, he discusses his sexuality, a sense of insanity, and a despair “[he] had no word for.” This poem was published in one of his larger works, Looking for The Gulf Motel. It can be found in various mediums, including Poetry Foundation’s website.
Annotation:Richard Blanco is one of the most famous openly gay poets in the contemporary world. In this work, he describes how he has struggled with his sexuality, seeking women in only his most desperate times (the night of his father’s wake, shortly after his death) and how the rest of the time he has had to deny his sexuality and be around men he “knew [he] couldn’t love.” This could contribute to the despair he discusses in the second stanza. He also alludes to cohort differences, facing discrimination and labeling by his grandmother, and suggesting a more negative attitude toward homosexuality from the older generations. Given that this was written less than five years ago, this is an important piece to consider for contemporary literature. Even with our current strides towards acceptance, members of the LGBT community continue to face discrimination that leads to the minority stress, depression, and self-doubt described in this poem.