This week’s poem captures a speaker caught between worlds, selves, social mores, desires and so much more. Notice how the phrase “the door” acts as a kind of reset button, re-starting the poem, over and over, keeping us between with him.

President Barack Obama selected Richard Blanco to serve as the fifth presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history. He is the author of a memoir and several books of poetry, including “How to Love a Country,” which was just published by Beacon Press and in which this poem appears.

Between [Another Door]

By Richard Blanco

[the door] Between playing dress-up, parading in his mother’s pleated skirt, marvelous as her clip-on ruby earrings, or noosed in his father’s necktie, cuffed by his wristwatch ticking with his pulse. [the door] Between playing house with his cousin’s Barbie dolls, or careening his toy truck through backyard mud. [the door] Between the coloring book prince he was supposed to be, and made to color in blue, or the princess dress he dreamed of wearing, colored in pink. [the door] Between the Wonder Woman lunchbox he pleaded for at KMart, or the Superman backpack his grandmother chose for him. [the door] Between his face slapped for putting on a plastic tiara at Craft World, or praised by his grandfather for wielding his plastic sword. [the door] Between cowboys shooting Indians with his brother’s cap gun, or sipping make-believe tea with his cat Ferby. [the door] Between what he could grow up to be: a doctor or nurse; a fireman or secretary; an astronaut or housewife; but never both. [the door] Between hula-hooping with the girls at recess, or dodging the boys who’d trip him, shove him, bruise him. [the door] Between the razzle-dazzle of pom-poms he longed to shake, or the boredom of football games he couldn’t follow. [the door] Between the soft wrist of the first girl he held hands with, or the stubble of the first man he kissed. [the door] Between mother’s head-bowed shame at the dinner table and his fear of father’s inch-wide belt on the hook. [the door] Between their small-talk about his homework, and their silences about his friends. [the door] Between lying to a priest upright in his chair, or lying with his truth on a therapist’s couch. [the door] Between playing it straight, or leaving town for the rest of his life. [the door] Between loving the only way he could love, or loving a gun to his head, or opening [another door].

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is poet who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2019 Richard Blanco. It appeared originally in “How to Love a Country” (Beacon Press, 2019) and appears here by permission of Beacon Press. For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go to

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