619: Without Enchantment

619: Without Enchantment

619: Without Enchantment


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I think a lot about the word tenacity. What it takes to survive in a world that is sometimes beautiful and sometimes hostile. I’m always amazed at the body’s willingness to continue, to keep going. The heart that keeps pumping, the lungs that keep breathing, the way the will to live can outsmart those other dark voices inside.

Once when I was younger, I watched ants outside on a stone and they were so determined to get where they were going it felt like some sort of eternal spell they were under. I could watch them for hours, one of them carrying a crumb as big or bigger than its body, another one with a piece of leaf and it often made me want to clap. How even if a drop of water or rock was placed in their way, they easily rerouted to form a new pathway. All roads lead to survival, the ants seem to say.

I think about this most when I’m feeling sorry for myself. Not to be blunt, but there are times when my body is in a great deal of pain. But I do what I can to get through it, breathe through it. I’ve read books on chronic pain and I do daily practices all in service of trying to live a pain-free life. But what strikes me about tenacity is how it’s not about getting through something, but it’s about living, surviving, even flourishing despite having circumstances stacked against you.

I think of soldiers returning from war, or civilians injured in war, or people who’ve had life-altering accidents, or simply how everybody is up against a different kind of work. Perhaps during this winter that brings us even more of the pandemic, we need to remember that. That each one of us is up against a different kind of work.

In today’s poem, we see as the speaker witnesses a body surviving in a world that’s made harsh by its ableism. What I love about this poem is that it speaks to the beauty of tenacity.

Without Enchantment
by Víctor Fowler Calzada

Translated from the Spanish by Katerina Gonzalez Seligmann

Now, when he is at your side, you discover
that it is a man, still young.

The same one as the time he proceeded through the corridor
of the bus, an other on the stump of both
knees when you did not understand the jokes his friend was telling
to keep him company.

That is how they resist: without enchantment.

That the ant carries a weight a hundred times
greater than its own.
That the halves of the worm insist on living.
Or the appetite of the lichen, growing upon
the smallest bit of humidity.

They practice forms of heroism that you have no
way of imagining, in mysteries that seem
transported from another universe.

And then the disorder, the mutation,
the accident, reveal a larva closer
to the basic and also to the border.

In that hardness of grasping: without enchantment.

"Without Enchantment" by Víctor Fowler Calzada, translated from the Spanish by Katerina Gonzalez Seligmann. Used by permission of the translator.