By Ada Limón
It's #tbt! Enjoy this great one from SWWIM Every Day's archives!
I’m looking for the right words, but all I can think of is: parachute or ice water. There’s nothing, but this sailboat inside me, slowly trying to catch a wind, maybe there’s an old man on it, maybe a small child, all I know is they’d like to go somewhere. They’d like to see the sail straighten go tense and take them some place. But instead they wait, a little tender wave comes and leaves them right where they were all along. How did this happen? No wind I can conjure anymore. My father told me the story of a woman larger than a mountain, who crushed redwoods with her feet, who could swim a whole lake in two strokes—she ate human flesh and terrorized the people. I loved that story. She was bigger than any monster, or Bigfoot, or Loch Ness creature— a woman who was like weather, as enormous as a storm. He’d tell me how she walked through the woods, each tree coming down, branch to sawdust, leaf to skeleton, each mountain pulverized to dust. Then, they set a trap. A hole so deep she could not climb out of it. (I have known that trap.) Then, people set her on fire with torches. So she could not eat them anymore, could not steal their children or ruin their trees. I liked this part too. The fire. I imagined how it burned her mouth, her skin, and how she tried to stand but couldn’t, how it almost felt good to her—as if something was finally meeting her desire with desire. The part I didn’t like was the end, how each ash that flew up in the night became a mosquito, how she is still all around us in the dark, multiplied. I’ve worried my whole life that my father told me this because she is my anger: first comes this hunger, then abyss, then fire, and then a nearly invisible fly made of ash goes on and on eating mouthful after mouthful of those I love.
Ada Limón is the author of six books of poetry, including The Carrying, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. Her book, Bright Dead Things, was nominated for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Her work has been supported most recently by a Guggenheim Fellowship. She grew up in Sonoma, California and now lives in Lexington, Kentucky where she writes, teaches remotely, and hosts the critically-acclaimed poetry podcast, The Slowdown. Her new book of poetry, The Hurting Kind, is out now from Milkweed Editions. She is the 24th Poet Laureate of The United States.
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