The Conditional by Ada Limón
MARGINALIA • SKIP TO THE POEM
Years ago I was in front of another big window, in another city, my last night there for a while. I’ve packed what I can, trying to discern what I need and what I don’t, and if I can live with that.
I sometimes want to carry my whole house on my back. I’m a creature of habit, it’s only justified, I tell myself. I want to move but I don’t want to leave. What does that say about me?
And then sometimes I want to leave everything behind. Start over, the whole shebang. I’ll even pick a new name. Is that running away from who I am or the sheer adventure of a lifetime?
I tell G. in a letter: Will I ever have it together?
I don’t feel that you’ve been so much broken as rearranged, he writes back to me.
I listen to Philip Glass play Mad Rush. No moon tonight, at least, not from where I’m sitting.
Say tomorrow doesn’t come.
Say the moon becomes an icy pit.
Say the sweet-gum tree is petrified.
Say the sun’s a foul black tire fire.
Say the owl’s eyes are pinpricks.
Say the raccoon’s a hot tar stain.
Say the shirt’s plastic ditch-litter.
Say the kitchen’s a cow’s corpse.
Say we never get to see it: bright
future, stuck like a bum star, never
coming close, never dazzling.
Say we never meet her. Never him.
Say we spend our last moments staring
at each other, hands knotted together,
clutching the dog, watching the sky burn.
Say, It doesn’t matter. Say, That would be
enough. Say you’d still want this: us alive,
right here, feeling lucky..
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This poem appeared in Bright Dead Things: Poems by Ada Limón, published by Milkweed Editions, 2015. Shared here with profound gratitude.
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