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.