The Leash by Ada Limón
MARGINALIA • SKIP TO THE POEM
There will be an end, I once wrote to myself, on a postcard one afternoon with the sun on my nape, my feet up on a chair. But not just yet, I eventually added. I was in another country and the city has been incredibly kind to me, and I was teaching myself about my limits and my fears.
Not just yet—perhaps my mantra for the past year as I pass through the days. You are here, I say. Pay attention, I say. How does one not become the very selfsame ghost that haunts one’s life?
I am here. Not yet shattered. Not yet dead. Beginning again. I am not entirely ready but my heart is open. Perhaps today that is enough.
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 the hidden nowhere river is poisoned
orange and acidic by a coal mine. How can
you not fear humanity, want to lick the creek
bottom dry to suck the deadly water up into
your own lungs, like venom? 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, can still marvel at how the dog runs straight
toward the pickup trucks break-necking down
the road, because she thinks she loves them,
because she’s sure, without a doubt, that the loud
roaring things will love her back, her soft small self
alive with desire to share her goddamn enthusiasm,
until I yank the leash back to save her because
I want her to survive forever. Don’t die, I say,
and we decide to walk for a bit longer, starlings
high and fevered above us, winter coming to lay
her cold corpse down upon this little plot of earth.
Perhaps, we are always hurtling our body towards
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.
This poem appeared in The Carrying by Ada Limón, published by Milkweed Editions, 2018. Shared here with profound gratitude.
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