For our bi-monthly segment of The Village Voice with Richard Blanco, we discuss poetry and how it can help us to better understand our lives and times — as we always do — this time ushering in National Hispanic Heritage Month which begins on Sept. 15.

Blanco is the fifth presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history. His latest project is the fine-press book "Boundaries," a collaboration with photographer Jacob Hessler.

Click on the audio player above to hear the full segment.

Featured poems:


Yesenia Montilla

For Marcelo

Some maps have blue borders

like the blue of your name

or the tributary lacing of

veins running through your

father’s hands. & how the last

time I saw you, you held

me for so long I saw whole

lifetimes flooding by me

small tentacles reaching

for both our faces. I wish

maps would be without

borders & that we belonged

to no one & to everyone

at once, what a world that

would be. Or not a world

maybe we would call it

something more intrinsic

like forgiving or something

simplistic like river or dirt.

& if I were to see you

tomorrow & everyone you

came from had disappeared

I would weep with you & drown

out any black lines that this

earth allowed us to give it—

because what is a map but

a useless prison? We are all

so lost & no naming of blank

spaces can save us. & what

is a map but the delusion of

safety? The line drawn is always

in the sand & folds on itself

before we’re done making it.

& that line, there, south of

el rio, how it dares to cover

up the bodies, as though we

would forget who died there

& for what? As if we could

forget that if you spin a globe

& stop it with your finger

you’ll land it on top of someone

living, someone who was not

expecting to be crushed by thirst—

Mango, Number 61

Richard Blanco

Pescado grande was number 14, while pescado chico, was number 12; dinero, money, was number 10. This was la charada, the sacred and obsessive numerology my abuela used to predict lottery numbers or winning trifectas at the dog track. The grocery stores and pawn shops on Flagler street handed out complementary wallet-size cards printed with the entire charada, numbers 1 through 100: number 70 was coco, number 89 was melón and number 61 was mango. Mango was Mrs. Pike, the last americana on the block with the best mango tree in the neighborhood. Mamá would coerce her in granting us picking rights—after all, los americanos don’t eat mango, she’d reason. Mango was fruit wrapped in brown paper bags, hidden like ripening secrets in the kitchen oven. Mango was the perfect house warming gift and a marmalade dessert with thick slices of cream cheese at birthday dinners and Thanksgiving. Mangos, watching like amber cat’s eyes. Mangos, perfectly still in their speckled maroon shells like giant unhatched eggs. Number 48 was cucaracha, number 36 was bodega, but mango was my uncle’s bodega, where everyone spoke only loud Spanish, the precious gold fruit towering in tres-por-un-peso pyramids. Mango was mango shakes made with milk, sugar and a pinch of salt—my grandfather’s treat at the 8th street market after baseball practice. Number 60 was sol, number 18 was palma, but mango was my father and I under the largest shade tree at the edges of Tamiami park. Mango was abuela and I hunched over the counter covered with the Spanish newspaper, devouring the dissected flesh of the fruit slithering like molten gold through our fingers, the nectar cascading from our binging chins, abuela consumed in her rapture and convinced that I absolutely loved mangos. Those messy mangos. Number 79 was cubano—us, and number 93 was revolución, though I always thought it should be 58, the actual year of the revolution—the reason why, I’m told, we live so obsessively and nostalgically eating number 61's, mangos, here in number 87, América.