555: Private Property

555: Private Property

555: Private Property


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I don’t think we write about our friends enough. Or talk about them enough. There’s so much art made for family members. And art made for and about lovers. Lovers who don’t deserve poems are getting poems. Bad lovers are getting good essays. Barely-there lovers are getting songs and stories written about them. But friends? Not so much. So much of our life depends on our friendships, those people you call after the frustrating conversation with the lover, or the hard conversation with a parent. There needs to be more written in praise of friendships.

If we’ve met, you know that I think my friends are the bomb. I have an exceptional bevy of compatriots. They are smarter, hotter, funnier, and more talented than me. And many of them are also artists.

Having someone to talk to about the elation and subsequent plummet of art-making is helpful. We can start out having a cocktail and casually catching up when suddenly the conversation turns toward the emotionally intense memoir or poem we’re writing, or the play or the TV pilot we’re working on. And before you know it, we’re knee-deep in the big ticket topics that fuel our lives at every turn. We’re hilarious and tragic all at once.

I think of that Joni Mitchell lyric from her song “People’s Parties”: Laughing and crying, you know it’s the same release. I’ve always valued friendships that go deep below the surface. I’m bad at small talk, I want the good shit, the bury the body in the backyard shit. I want the friends that know, even when you’re dancing, letting it all hang out in the heat of the moment, that you’re still raw to the realities of the world. If ever I slink back into my cave of quiet unworthiness, I know one of those friends is coming to get me.

Today’s delightful poem pays homage to those authentic and artistic friendships that find a little grace in the good times, despite the hurt we all carry.

Private Property
by Analicia Sotelo

In this minor emergency of the self,
we drink to become confused,
to swim in the dark like idiot fish.

This is a lake at night in a forest.

This is where we look up at the stains 
in the sky and someone says, It’s purpling out here,
and someone else says, Someone write that down.

We’re all performing our bruises. 

Chloe smiles like a specialty knife,
Bea tells stories like a bubbly divorcee,
Clara smokes like a sage in her coiffed towel,
expertly naked, third eye shining.

I hang back on the shore with Kyle.
We talk about this man in New York
while our skinny-dipping sirens
sing show tunes in the violet dark.
Later, we’re all in a clinic at 3 a.m.
handling Kyle’s broken ankle.
It’s so embarrassing, he keeps saying.

And it is: Earlier, doing the sprinkler
in a dorm room to Please Don’t Stop the Music,
he kept yelling, Stop the Music! Stop the Music!
until we understood: he wasn’t actually joking.

And sometimes the poems were like that.
When we wrote knife, bubbly, naked,
we were really getting down,
dancing hard on the injury.

"Private Property" by Analicia Sotelo, from VIRGIN by Analicia Sotelo copyright © 2018 Analica Sotelo. Used by permission of Milkweed Editions.