Poem of the Week, by Ada Limon

Spots are still open in most of our one-day workshops this fall – maybe you should treat yourself to a class! Check them out here and let me know if you’re interested. I’d love to see you in one.

When I first read this poem, by the wondrous Ada Limon, it turned me still and focused the way all her poems do. I pictured my grandmother, a woman who refused to dance and was ashamed of her big body, the one time I came upon her swaying to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass in the kitchen when she thought she was alone.

I pictured my other grandmother, who at the moment she died appeared to my sleeping mother flying overhead, calling her name in a voice restored to youth and happiness.

I remembered the owl in the tree above me, who tilted his head back and forth with mine, whose eyes stared direct and unblinking at my eyes. I thought about Ada Limon’s friend, and about those rare times in life when all the names and roles others give us fall away, and we are only our essential selves.

Open Water, by Ada Limòn

It does no good to trick and weave and lose 
the other ghosts, to shove the buried deeper 
into the sandy loam, the riverine silt, still you come,
my faithful one, the sound of a body so persistent 
in water I cannot tell if it is a wave or you 
moving through waves. A month before you died 
you wrote a letter to old friends saying you swam
with a pod of dolphins in open water, saying goodbye,
but what you told me most about was the eye. 
That enormous reckoning eye of an unknown fish 
that passed you during that last–ditch defiant swim. 
On the shore, you described the fish as nothing 
you’d seen before, a blue–gray behemoth moving slowly 
and enduringly through its deep fathomless 
North Pacific waters. That night, I heard more 
about that fish and that eye than anything else. 
I don’t know why it has come to me this morning.
Warm rain and landlocked, I don’t deserve the image.
But I keep thinking how something saw you, something 
was bearing witness to you out there in the ocean 
where you were no one’s mother, and no one’s wife, 
but you in your original skin, right before you died, 
you were beheld, and today in my kitchen with you
now ten years gone, I was so happy for you.

For more information about Ada Limòn, please check out her website.
Words by Winter: my podcast

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