528: First

528: First

528: First


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

At this very moment, I am so full of want it’s actually hard to know what I want first. In fact, if I began to make a list right now of all the things I wanted, it would be too long for this episode. It would overflow the page and the soundwaves and no one would want to listen. It would be more like an aching howl that goes on too long until it can’t anymore. I don’t mean wanting items but big things, those impossible desires, like wanting to heal people and to heal the whole earth. I want and want and yet too, I’m aware that this moment, this imperfect instant of my own life, is in fact, my whole life. To want more is to live with the unuseful feeling of scarcity. 

One of the reasons I love today’s poem is that it explores that human want, that all too-real desire to fix things, to be made whole, to feel a rightness with the world. This is a poem that reminds me that to want is to admit to being human. And to witness each other’s wanting is to see the vulnerable truth of who we truly are.

by Carrie Fountain

There is a holiness to exhaustion
is what I keep telling myself,
filling out the form so my TA gets paid
then making copies of it on the hot
and heaving machine, writing
Strong start! on a pretty bad poem.
And then the children: the baby's
mouth opening, going for the breast,
the girl's hair to wash tonight
and then comb so painstakingly
in the tub while conditioner drips
in slick globs onto her shoulders,
while her discipline chart flaps in the air
conditioner at school, taped
to a filing cabinet, longing for stickers.
My heart is so giant this evening,
like one of those moons so full
and beautiful and terrifying
if you see it when you're getting out
of the car you have to go inside the house
and make someone else come out
and see it for themselves. I want every-
thing, I admit. I want yes of course
and I want it all the time. I want
a clean heart. I want the children
to sleep and the drought
to end. I want the rain to come
down — It's supposed to monsoon
is what Naomi said, driving away
this morning, and she was right,
as usual. It's monsooning. Still,
I want more. Even as the streets
are washed clean and then begin
to flood. Even though the man
came again today to check the rat traps
and said he bet we'd catch the rat
within 24 hours. We still haven't caught
the rat, so I'm working at the table
with my legs folded up beneath me.
I want to know what is holy —
I do. But first I want the rat to die.
I am thirsty for that death
and will drink deeply of that victory,
the thwack of the trap's hard plastic jaw,
I will rush to see the evidence no matter
how gruesome, leaning my body over
the washing machine to see the thing
crushed there, much smaller
than I'd imagined it'd be,
the strawberry large in its mouth.

"First" from THE LIFE by Carrie Fountain, copyright © 2021 Carrie Fountain. Used by permission of the poet.