638: In the Bad Days
638: In the Bad Days
I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.
I just escaped for a few days with some friends to the Cayman Islands. It was a last-minute trip where we thought there was no way we could make it happen and then it happened and suddenly there we were staring at the sea, the color so unreal it looked like a blue raspberry Now & Later or Listerine. A color that didn’t seem possible in nature. It was all too brief and all too beautiful.
Still, the saying is true, wherever you go, there you are. Or rather the world is there too. So of course there were moments when I’d find myself spiraling a bit about the state of the world, the pandemic, the climate crisis, the war in Ukraine. And I’d have to remind myself that there was a moment, not even that long ago, where I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to travel again, to see my friends again, to see the sea again, to feel safe, or feel healthy. I’d make myself remember the hardest moments of the darkest days just to really be sure I was appreciating this extraordinary moment of sunlight and waves.
Humans are so strange in the ways that we are either recovering too quickly from something or holding on to pain forever. There seems to be no middle ground. We bounce back or we wallow. But remembering the hardest moments of grief or loss and letting them be present for you in the good moments is something I’ve found useful and grounding as I age. It feels like a way of remembering that balance does exist. This too. This grief. This joy. Together always intertwined.
At one point, my friend T saw a fish swimming in the clear water. I thought it was a plastic bag because of course I would think it was a plastic bag. But it was a fish and it was alive and so were we.
Today’s poem examines the concept of writing to the future self in the midst of the dark times. And how remembering that suffering occurs is part of the release when something good finally comes.
In the Bad Days
by Kevin Prufer
I am writing to you from deep in the bad days, hoping you will hear me wherever you are, far away in a better time — + In a better time, hoping you will hear me, far away, wherever you are: I came upon a heron late at night, deep in these bad days. + Late tonight, deep in our bad days, he plucked a frog from the waterfilled ditch. His eye was black glass. I am writing to you, wherever you are + late in my bad days. The frog’s neck was broken, so its legs dangled. The heron eyed me blackly from the wet ditch. I am writing to you + from deep in the black days. The dead dangled. I watched from the sidewalk. The heron’s glass eye eyed me in the streetlight’s glare. Wherever you are + in a better time: people were dying. I am writing to tell you people are dying. Remember that while you tie your shoes to go for a walk through the song-filled night, through the beautiful night of another time.
"In the Bad Days" by Kevin Prufer, from THE ART OF FICTION copyright © 2021 Kevin Prufer. Used by permission of Four Way Books.