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Front Cover The Carrying: Poems by Ada Limón
Milkweed Editions – Minnesota/USA – August 2018
Photo Credit: Ada Limón

 

My Poetry Corner March 2019 features the poem “The Leash” from the poetry collection, The Carrying: Poems, by Ada Limón. Native of Sonoma, California, Limón is a poet, writer, and teacher. After earning an MFA in creative writing from the University of New York, she spent the next ten years working for various magazines, such as Martha Stewart Living, GQ, and Travel + Living. In 2011, she moved to Lexington, Kentucky, to be close to her now-husband, Lucas, a business owner in the horse racing industry. In addition to working as a freelance writer, she serves on the faculty of the low-residency MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte (NC) and the online and summer programs for the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center (MA).

In an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader magazine (August 2018), Limón says that The Carrying, her fifth book of poetry, “is incredibly personal. It’s more political than my other books… It deals with the body, with fertility. It also deals with what it is to do the day-to-day work of surviving.”

In her poem, “The Vulture & The Body,” she shares her struggle with infertility. In coming to terms with the failure of fertility treatment, she asks:

What if, instead of carrying
a child, I am supposed to carry grief?

The poet further explores her struggle with infertility in the poem, “Mastering,” in which she recalls a conversation with a male friend who “tells me the real miracle, more than marriage, the thing that makes you / believe there might be a god after all, is the making of a child.”

In her interview with Alex Crowley for Publisher’s Weekly (July 2018), Limón comments on the way women are valued within our society. “It’s a lovely, beautiful thing to know you can be valued and respected and even cherished without giving birth,” she says. “Because motherhood becomes such a definition of, ‘well, you’re not a real woman until you’ve given birth.’”

In the poem, “A New National Anthem,” Limón expresses her discomfort with the martial theme of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

… And what of the stanzas
we never sing, the third that mention “no refuge
could save the hireling and the slave”? Perhaps
the truth is every song of this country
has an unsung third stanza, something brutal
snaking underneath us as we blindly sing…

The poet ends with the hope that, someday, we can have a new anthem that reflects our unity.

…the song that says my bones
are your bones, and your bones are my bones,
and isn’t that enough?

“It’s hard not to be political now,” Limón tells Crowley. “A lot of poets, they’re like, ‘well, I’m not political, I don’t do this,’ and it’s like, no, we have to. You can’t be truthful if you don’t talk about it.”

Poet Ada Limón at her Lexington home with her dog, Lily Bean – August 2018
Photo Credit: Lexington Herald-Leader (Rich Copley)

 

In the featured poem, “The Leash,” a prose poem with a single stanza of 33 lines, Limón addresses the violence and fear that assail and divide us.

After the birthing of bombs of forks and fear,
the frantic automatic weapons unleashed,
the spray of bullets into a crowd holding hands,
that brute sky opening in a slate-metal maw
that swallows only the unsayable in each of us, what’s
left?…

Even when toxins released into a river by a coal mine threaten our lives, the poet holds out hope for our survival and healing of the wounds dividing us.

…Reader, I want to
say: Don’t die. Even when silvery fish after fish
comes back belly up, and the country plummets
into a crepitating crater of hatred, isn’t there still
something singing? The truth is: I don’t know.
But sometimes I swear I hear it, the wound closing
like a rusted-over garage door, and I can still move
my living limbs into the world without too much
pain…

Limón marvels at the way the dog chases after “the loud roaring” pickup trucks with loving abandon. To save the dog from self-harm, she yanks back its leash. She reflects, in closing:

Perhaps we are always hurtling our bodies toward
the thing that will obliterate us, begging for love
from the speeding passage of time, and so maybe,
like the dog obedient at my heels, we can walk together
peacefully, at least until the next truck comes.

To read the complete featured poem and learn more about the work of Ada Limón, go to my Poetry Corner March 2019.

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