584: Marte

584: Marte

584: Marte


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I was with my older brother last week and it was such a joy to spend time with him and his family. One of the things I try not to take for granted is how being together is about reliving our shared memories, the storytelling that happens between siblings.

We remember our paternal grandfather coming in, still singing loudly from Christmas mass, boisterous, ecstatic, while we had been sullenly waiting on the couch watching movies. We remember our Uncle Charles and how much he made us laugh, his sarcastic humor ricocheting off our childhood bodies like some forbidden new music we didn’t know existed. We remember the uncles reciting the famous rhyming poem “The Cremation of Sam McGee” late one night after our dad’s marriage to Cynthia. Sitting in our backyard in the lingering July heat and watching these brothers crack each other up over and over until we were laughing too, though we weren’t sure why.

We keep each other in check too. He corrects me if I misattribute a quote or I correct him if he misremembers a moment or a specific event. Our little brother, Bryce, who is fifteen years younger than me, and seventeen years younger than Cyrus, also remembers so much. We try to remind him of the grandfather and the uncle that he barely knew because they died before he was old enough to really remember them well. Together, the three of us are the keepers of many communal memories, and there’s something that feels almost like alchemy about it.

No one can remember everything. But maybe if we work together, we can try to remember a bit more than we might otherwise? Bryce remembers his mom the most out of all of us. Our memories of her are earlier, but more scattered. It seems like an important role that each of us play, remembering not just for ourselves but for each other. And when we forget, that’s OK too. We give it up to the universe, and let it go. Still the work feels sacred, not just because it is the work of honoring, but because it is the work we do together.

Today’s moving poem by Gustavo Hernandez recognizes the communal memory of siblings, the way one points out something in the night sky and demands we pay attention not just to what is there, but to what is missing.

by Gustavo Hernandez

Around the time
       the first holiday billboards
             go up

      I raise a finger to a point in the night.

To my eldest sister say,
        look               that red light is Mars.

We have been more than one year
        without him, and just now 
                we are starting to see things again.

        So much of our knowledge
about the skies is gone.
                               codices black—all questions
                 we have forgotten to ask:
                                              the color of the orbs
                                              the slabs of moonlight.

I tell her the planet has been
                  floating there for weeks,
and I really mean to say,
         we must try to hold on
                  to everything we can still recognize, 
                                 even the need to look
                   for our fathers
in the 

"Marte" by Gustavo Hernandez by FLOWER GRAND FIRST, copyright © 2021. Published by Moon Tide Press. Used by permission of Gustavo Hernandez.