557: from A Year

557: from A Year

557: from A Year


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I remember the first year after my stepmother’s death. I saw her in everything. It wasn’t on purpose. I wasn’t looking for her, she just showed up. Unexpected and alive and also not alive in my life. I remember walking in Brooklyn and there was a woman who looked just like her ducking into the Blue Stove bakery and I thought very simply, “Of course. She loves good food.” And then of course, I knew it wasn’t her, it was only the back of someone’s head really. And then it turned out to be a woman who did not look like her at all.

That’s how it happens, right? All of you who have lost someone, you know it, you’ve seen it. The visitation seems like a gift and also a hard memory of grief.

I would see her in everything that first year. And then slowly it would shift until it only happened fewer and farther between. But just a few days ago, the flight attendant checking our test results and vaccine cards for our flight looked so much like her, even behind her mask that it took me aback. When she also turned up at the gate to check our passports I said, “Hello, again.” And she smiled and her eyes looked even more like Cynthia’s eyes. Cynthia who has been gone for 11 years now. I boarded the plane with the words “Hello again” branded on my brain.

It doesn’t always feel easy for them to return to us, our ghosts, but it always seems to happen at the right time. A reminder that someone I loved and who loved me shows up sometimes saying hello again. I remember before she died, the internet at the house was always going out in the storms and dad was always trying to get a stronger signal. Emails would never go through. Once, she looked up from the bed that she was not yet imprisoned by and joked, “Well, if I ever want to send you a message from the great beyond, I guess I won’t send an email.” And she hasn’t, but messages still arrive.

In today’s poem, by the wonderful poet Jos Charles, we see a lost one return in images.

This is from the November section of Jos Charles’ “A Year.”

by Jos Charles

                       I press each leaf

                       (the unfaceable too in your leaves)

                       Pigment presses out
                       you in
not yet in the wind 

	All Saturday a fire
	Household downed
in bustling   Ceasefirelessly leaf
approaches leaf I built
exits   Canopies to come
back to  World
welted I lean in 

                                      The air
color national in its mass like  
	         wool & there are 
	         those who sort wool
                 & it is work to bow to fold a hand
                 upon a hand   Election day
                 interred sheltered 
                 the wood us 

Water floods
beneath us chambers of water beneath
			                 Visible even the unseen

			                 Overcast & fielding our street you were

No new word
having fed every

	    word being only one

	    Her two eyes in the leaves

Selection from "A Year" by Jos Charles. Used by permission of the poet.