NPR did a fabulous interview a while ago with Richard Blanco, who was born to first generation Cuban émigrés. Blanco visited Cuba for the opening of the US embassy to read new work commemorating the restoration of US diplomatic relations with Cuba. Blanco spoke about how he would be honoring the audaciousness of his mother and her journey into the unknown as she and her husband fled the Castro regime.

Seven months pregnant with Richard, Geysa Blanco departed Cuba with just a single suitcase and Richard’s six year old brother. Geysa was so hopeful for more, or perhaps hopeless at her current circumstance, that she risked all their lives for the prospect of something better. Leaving her eight siblings behind crushed his mother but her hope for her sons somehow outweighed this fear. Did I mention she was 29 and pregnant? Like super pregnant?

As I listened to his words, followed by a beautiful poem he dedicated to his mother, I thought how often we sit, with too much to lose to move outside of our comfort zone. How easy it is to publish another medium impact paper or wait until we are really sure a technique can be adapted or a cohort can be recruited before we move cautiously into the science waters.

What if we committed to one simply audacious professional bounce of faith without a net each year? 

Can we hang in the space of the unknown long enough to let go of the fears and think of what the world can gain if we were just slightly braver.  Slightly more outspoken. Willing to ask a question that may change the pace and scope of our careers or engage in a field we know nothing of. What’s your challenge? Can it be any harder than a 29-year-old leaving everything she knew behind?

Richard and Geysa Blanco on the day Richard read an original poem celebrating Barack Obama’s second inauguration as President of the United States.

 

“Mail For Mama.” – Richard Blanco

For years they have come for you – awkward-size envelopes labeled POR AVION, affixed with multiple oversized stamps honoring men from another country. Monthly, you would peel eggshell pages, the white onionskin paper telling details – Kiki’s first steps, your mother’s death, dates approximated by the postmarks. Sometimes with pictures – mute black-and-whites, poor photos of poor cousins I would handle looking for my resemblance in the foreign image of an ear, an eyebrow or a nose. When possible, you would parcel a few pounds of your desperation in discreet brown packages – medicines, bubblegum, our family’s photos, a few yards of taffeta needed for a Quinces gown – always waiting for your letters, always. Your anxieties locked in the crumbling mosaic of memories you face, like the coral face of a fountain goddess, your stone mouth and eyes in a garden of exile.

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