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Instructions on Not Giving Up by Ada Limón

Instructions on Not Giving Up
by Ada Limón

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.


Did you know that I wasn’t supposed to be here. Not now, I mean. Not even today. I had planned to slip away a long time ago. This world chafes. Every day I was alive I wondered at the ticking clock inside my body. Every second I was here was one second more than I wanted.

Every day the sun at my window. The insistence of light. The insistence of warmth curling upon my skin saying, isn’t it astonishing to receive all this wild love from a dead star?

My beloved beckons at me to come to bed. How I have ever thought I wanted to be dead I can’t even comprehend now.

Every day I didn’t die I told myself to get up, I taught myself to get out of the deep pit, if I have to crawl I will do it, I will do it because the sun is at my window, because here it is, the life I thought I wouldn’t have, and it is good, and it is sweet.

The Carrying by Ada LimónSOURCE

This poem appeared in The Carrying by Ada Limón, published by Milkweed Editions, 2018. Shared here with deep gratitude.


“Vulnerable, tender, acute, these are serious poems, brave poems, exploring with honesty the ambiguous moment between the rapture of youth and the grace of acceptance. A daughter tends to aging parents. A woman struggles with infertility—“What if, instead of carrying / a child, I am supposed to carry grief?”—and a body seized by pain and vertigo as well as ecstasy. A nation convulses: “Every song of this country / has an unsung third stanza, something brutal.” And still Limón shows us, as ever, the persistence of hunger, love, and joy, the dizzying fullness of our too-short lives. “Fine then, / I’ll take it,” she writes. “I’ll take it all.”

In Bright Dead Things, Limón showed us a heart “giant with power, heavy with blood”—“the huge beating genius machine / that thinks, no, it knows, / it’s going to come in first.” In her follow-up collection, that heart is on full display—even as The Carrying continues further and deeper into the bloodstream, following the hard-won truth of what it means to live in an imperfect world.”


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Thank you for being here all these years—and into the future—as I hold poets to the light.

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