631: Every Mourning

631: Every Mourning

631: Every Mourning


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I have always marveled at the fact that some people don’t have to worry when they walk around their neighborhood. Can wave at everyone and feel fairly safe. There are many of us that don’t feel that way. I naively waved at a red car once thinking it was a neighbor’s car and then the car circled the block five times, each time pulling up slowly next to me, until I pretended to go into a neighbor’s house.

It’s hard to know who to feel safe around and who feels safe around you. I envy the freedom of folks who have never felt that sort of fear or threat or have never felt like they don’t belong somewhere.

I want to believe the best in humanity. I want to feel like every neighborhood is safe for every human. But as hopeful as I can be on some days, for the most part I’ve lived too long to feel like that’s possible.

Still, sometimes I long for it. Don’t you? I long for that ease and comfort for everyone. I want what’s beyond our skin to show through. What if we could witness each other’s inner lights, each other’s desires, each other’s goodness, each other’s humanness, and in doing so, wave wildly and with enthusiasm and say HELLO NEIGHBOR! HELLO STRANGER! LOOK HOW WE ARE GETTING THROUGH THIS LIFE TOGETHER IN THIS THING CALLED CIVILIZATION. HELLO HELLO HELLO!

In today’s truthful poem, we witness what it is to desire that sense of community and also know the pitfalls of that wish.

Every Mourning
by Michael Kleber-Diggs

Morning: walking my neighborhood, I come upon a colony
of ants busy at work. I take care not to step on any and miss

them all, then encounter up a ways a fellow traveler greeting
the day. I am frightening her. No. She is afraid of me.

Is she an introvert? Is she a neighbor? Is she just in from the ‘burbs,
from the country? Is she scared of the inner city? Am I the inner city?

Is she racist? Shouldn’t I be the wary one? Or is she a survivor
like me? It can’t be what I’m wearing: khakis, a blue and white

checkered button-down shirt, and the nylon sandals I favor
because they’re comfortable, my feet can breathe in them.

Dear friends, I am the nicest man on earth. 

And I want to shout, Morning! But just then a weaver or
carpenter, just then a pharaoh or fire or pavement, just

then a little black ant struggles by alone, alone. And
in that moment, I want us to give ourselves over

to industry, carry the weight of the day together, lighten
it. I want to be a part of a colony where I feel easy

walking around. Cool as the goddamn breeze. Where
I can breathe, build structures sturdier and grander

than this—but the woman crosses to the other side
of the street, and I do what I usually do: retreat into

myself as far as I can, then send out whatever’s left. 

"Every Mourning" by Michael Kleber-Diggs, from WORLDLY THINGS copyright © 2022 Michael Kleber-Diggs. Used by permission of Milkweed Editions.