569: Let's Crawl Into That Photograph & Stay There for a While

569: Let's Crawl Into That Photograph & Stay There for a While

569: Let's Crawl Into That Photograph & Stay There for a While


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

In my hometown of Sonoma, there’s a plaza in the center of town. It’s where city hall is and it’s where everyone gathers. There’s a small amphitheater where at any given moment, some precocious child is performing to the empty audience seats. There’s a duck pond, and two playgrounds, and a fountain with dozens of slow circling koi. During the holidays, the whole plaza is lit up with twinkling lights. The iconic palm tree at the center is wrapped in lights too and even though it’s California, it has a quintessential holiday film set feel to it. All it needs is fake snow.

As a teenager, the park was the place to hang out, the place where you met up with groups of friends, or a boyfriend, and sat on top of the picnic tables and smoked those terrible clove cigarettes and complained about the slowness of life. Sonoma is a small town that caters to wealthy tourists seeking wine tastings and spa treatments. There was not much to do as a teenager. We even called it Slow-noma. We still do!

The thing about the plaza was that it felt like common ground. As much as anything can be common ground. It was free. It was safe for the most part. And there was plenty of room to spread out. It still feels that way. If you’re going to meet someone in Sonoma, it’s fairly easy to pick a spot in the park. It’s idyllic really.

But for me, as a moody teenager, it was the place to escape and breathe for a while. My mom and my stepdad had an apartment just off the plaza, and so I’d walk down the park and meet a friend or just swing sadly on the swings by myself wondering when life was going to get easier. I’d probably be wearing all black, looking like someone who wanted to be alone.

But that was the thing, I didn’t want to be alone. You don’t go to the plaza to be alone. You go there hoping to find a friend from school, someone to keep you company, someone to remind you that Slow-noma is still a little fun, that even if it’s a small town, it’s still a community, a place where even a wave to a stranger makes you feel not so isolated.

In today’s quiet poem, we watch as a young girl reaches out to someone and admits that she needs some sort of comfort. And don’t we all need a little comfort.

Let’s Crawl Into That Photograph & Stay There for a While
by Rachel McKibbens

A child came up to me in the park
and asked for a cigarette.
Her eyes were startled cats,
her voice, a chandelier.
I don’t smoke, I said.
She took a seat beside me 
on the bench, resting her head
against my shoulder.
Her hair smelled like an old 
dictionary cracked open
after rain. I want tenderness,
she said, as a row 
of pigeons crashed
against the trees
like good china.

"Let's Crawl Into that Photograph & Stay There for a While" by Rachel McKibbens. Used by permission of the poet.