516: In Response to Feeling Alone

516: In Response to Feeling Alone

516: In Response to Feeling Alone


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I spend a lot of time alone during the days. Though the dog would like to assure you I am not alone. And the cat sleeping in the upstairs bathroom would also beg to differ. Still, many of my days are spent in my office, or on the back porch, or at the kitchen table alone with my thoughts.

I am comfortable alone. I am not lonely. But sometimes, I do find that I’ve been talking to myself, or writing letters in my head, or suddenly unsure of who it is I’m speaking to in my own mind. Just yesterday, I was getting ready to complete a creative project and found myself getting anxious and said out loud, “Don’t spiral.” And I smiled, delighted in knowing I was treating myself like one of my beloved animals. “Sit, high-five, don’t spiral.”

What I like most about being alone is that it comes with its own strange music. Today’s poem, even though it is in the form of a letter,  feels like a tribute to that rich music of aloneness, that sense of the brain moving fast to make bright unusual connections and then slowing down again to breathe. It feels like a secret note from a secret world slipped under the door, begging to be opened.

In Response to Feeling Alone
by t. liem

Doubtless our lives are solitary but also the inverse. 
–Jenny Xie

Everything’s been known before us OK. The clouds 

disappear the sky sometimes; or they become it. When we stood on Seminyak beach 
like a pair of exclamation points, 

we heard the same offing tone heard when someone went to look for their father’s 
corpse in 1965, didn’t we. Please don’t make me explain this. After the fact

a siren seesaws by my open window. Passing on the street a voice in a phone 
says no I’m alone now so it’s possible ghosts also vacation 

from whats-to-come. How many people can you name who want to be loved without
enthusiastically loving back? The common 
I will lose it. In other words, this is the only language I speak. To my slightest 
disappointment: I’m just writing to say hello. No need to write back.

Don’t get me wrong, waiting isn’t passive, but what if they never found him? Spoiler
alert you already know they didn’t; or they found him

a thousand times a thousand times. The story I was told was cooked on a soaking wet 
 skewer piercing the meat of it through and through. In other words,

an implication. Not to change the subject, but if you think an apocalypse will eliminate 
the wealth gap, let’s hold together the premonition

it will not. Admiration turned me into a housefly, repeating my body against a window 
trying to get out. I lied

low about having let particular men touch me, but don’t leave me alone now before I 
recover. Their spines turned in on the shelves reveal thick wads of time I spent in 
omission. Gentle paper, I ask for it back. Doubtless

this moment is our opening.

"In Response to Feeling Alone" by t. liem. Originally published in Apogee. Used by permission of the poet.