627: Don't Say Love Just Signal

627: Don't Say Love Just Signal

627: Don't Say Love Just Signal


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I don’t know about you, but for me, the last two years have put a strain on language. And it’s not because language hasn’t helped or soothed or distressed or pummeled us, it’s that I’m used to being able to supplement language with physical presence. For me, and maybe for many of us, the way we say I love you, is just by showing up. By being there, sometimes quietly, wordlessly, but there, in person, nonetheless.

Of course, since our travel has been restricted and safety concerns abound, we haven’t always been able to show up. Through the FaceTime screen I say to my grandmother, I love you, I love you. And she says it back. But I can’t help but wish I was in her little apartment handing her flowers in person, sharing our traditional “special occasion” In N’ Out burger together. Words through a screen are useful, yes, but they remain only that, words through a screen.

The other day I had a craving to see my loved ones so badly it physically hurt. Now, we are slowly learning to enter the world again, safely. So that we can stand side by side and stare at the birds. Or see a smile come over someone’s face when they don’t think you’re looking. To touch someone, to hold their hand, to sit in silence over a puzzle or a card game, there’s worth in that.

Here I am, a poet, who believes in the power of language, and yet, here I am also saying I believe deeply in the power of touch, or togetherness, of moving beyond the page and into the sunlight together.

Today’s breathtaking poem speaks to the importance of saying I love you without saying the words — how love is made of those little moments of togetherness that bind us indelibly to each other.

Don’t Say Love Just Signal
by Tyree Daye

no one said hawk
we just looked at the sky
in the middle of a conversation

no one said when the melons were ripe
they were thumped and listened to
for a note we liked

a note like cane

no one had to tell the birds to eat
the seeds
we spit on the ground

no one had to tell the devil to make his rounds
in his many forms
with his many things

your mama my mama/my mama your mama
we never had to say it so until now
because you feel more than far away
you feel gone

we’d all wake up one morning
and all the Jacaranda trees were blooming
and no one needed to say a thing

& we were having a good time
& we were so alive we lifted off the ground a bit
no one needed to call it flying

& no one told us to come down
we could do this for long time    love
like this    beside our grandmama’s

watching Bob Ross make birds
& bushes in her hushed living room
every summer a craft lesson
no one told us was happening

no one told me to write this down

"Don't Say Love Just Signal" by Tyree Daye. Used by permission of the poet.