510: Let Me
510: Let Me
I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.
The thing that makes me break down in tears the most often is not grief, but human resilience. To watch someone dress their kids and get them to school, ship them off with backpacks and N95 masks knowing how hard the world is. To watch someone keep going with some sort of unfathomable fortitude, no matter how rough the human waters, that is what astounds me. And still we go on, the world seems to say.
Today’s poem is “Let Me” by Camille T. Dungy. In it, I am struck not only by the truth and danger in the lines, but also that strange and beautiful moment of pause when the speaker realizes she has made it this far. She is still living, still going forward, despite it all, she is making her way through the ruins of this world.
by Camille T. Dungy
Let me tell you, America, this one last thing. I will never be finished dreaming about you. I had a lover once. If you could call him that. I drove to his apartment in a faraway town, like the lost bear who wandered to our cul-de-sac that summer smoke from the burning mountain altered our air. I don’t know what became of her. I drove to so many apartments in the day. America, this is really the very last thing. He’d stocked up, for our weekend together, on food he knew I would like. Vegetarian pad Thai, some black-bean-and-sweet-potato chili, coconut ice cream, a bag of caramel popcorn. Loads of Malbec. He wanted to make me happy, but he drank until I would have been a fool not to be afraid. I’d been drinking plenty, too. It was too late to drive myself anywhere safe. I watched him finger a brick as if to throw it at my head. Maybe that’s a metaphor. Maybe that’s what happened. America, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference with you. All I could do was lock myself inside his small bedroom. I pushed a chest against the door and listened as he threw his body at the wood. Listened as he tore apart the pillow I had sewn him. He’d been good to me, but this was like waiting for the walls to ignite. You’ve heard that, America? In a firestorm some houses burn from the inside out. An ember caught in the eaves, wormed through the chinking, will flare up in the insulation, on the frame, until everything in the house succumbs to the blaze. In the morning, I found him on the couch. Legs too long, arms spilling to the carpet, knuckles bruised in the same pattern as a hole in the drywall. Every wine bottle empty. Each container of food opened, eaten, or destroyed. “I didn’t want you to have this,” he whispered. If he could not consume my body, the food he’d given me to eat would have to do. Have you ever seen a person walk through the ruins of a burnt-out home? Please believe me, I am not making light of such suffering, America. Maybe the dream I still can’t get over is that, so far, I have made it out alive.
"Let Me" by Camille T. Dungy. Used by permission of the poet.