640: Eventually / One Point Where We Arrive

640: Eventually / One Point Where We Arrive

640: Eventually / One Point Where We Arrive


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

There’s this thing that happens when you’ve been writing awhile, where you look at the paper, or the screen, or out the window, and you think, what the hell am I doing? What could I possibly have to say about the world, when it’s all been said before, and said better by better writers? Why should I shove my black ballpoint pen or Garamond type into the universe when everything has already been written about?

When this happens, it also comes with the crushing realization that not only has everything already been written about, but for centuries someone has had this same epiphany. While drinking tea or wine, and staring out the window, someone has said, ‘what good are my words against the endless sea of history and time?' The hits just keep on coming. Not only are you not the first to recognize that everything has been said before, someone has already said everything’s been said before.

So, what happens then? What’s next? Well, if you’re like me, you have an overwhelming feeling of dread, then you go outside, you pay a bill, you call your mom, you answer your emails, you contemplate the end of your life, and then suddenly, because you have no choice, because something in you is drawn to the page, because you are bent in the way poets are bent, you go back the page and start to write again.

That’s how art gets made, in conversation with all conversations, in spite of history and because of history. We make our poems even when every subject feels wrung out and drained of life. We find a way.

In today’s poem, we see as the speaker struggles with the weight of everything that’s been said before. And despite all of that, the poem comes, is tugged beautifully out of the collective past and into the singular present.

Eventually / One Point Where We Arrive
by Adam Clay

Enough has been written about birds,
about the loons somewhere on the lake,
drifting out of the eye’s grasp
so far from their calls that they shift
into two different birds: the actual form
and shape of a bird while in another
they become the ideal version of what
we think a bird should be. Enough
has been written about the curiosity 
of a child who asks why the birds landing 
in the backyard skitter away
when we come near, the question a difficult
one beneath its asking yet simple as glass
on glass on its surface. Enough, too,
have the poets written about age, about 
the mirror and its obsession with shortcomings.
Enough has been said about the inevitability 
of closure in all things: endings sometimes 
too much to imagine, while for others birth
may take years, those affected by concentric circles
long since gone beyond the space they once
inhabited (one hopes) into a different mirror, 
though they are all the same reflections,
carrying the glare of the eyes that have come before
them with such ease, with a chisel for a stone
the size of what’s been written about enough,
a promise hidden deep within its geologic folds.

"Eventually / One Point Where We Arrive'" by Adam Clay. Used by permission of the poet.