641: Old Growth

641: Old Growth

641: Old Growth


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

This is going to sound strange and ethereal, but I think I might have stopped believing in time altogether. I mean, of course, it does move in one direction, but then again does it? If we’ve learned anything over the last two years of living in a pandemic it has to be that time is…complicated.

I have started to view time more like a ball of yarn where all the threads are interwoven and touching and do not unravel into one straight line that goes from birth to death. All the yarn is intermingling so that what happened in the past is also happening now and what is happening now is also happening in the future. I don’t know if this is true, but I think many artists feel this way.

This gives rise to the idea of resurrection, the idea of ghosts, the idea of immortality, and of course the idea of memory and its power. During years of meditation work I have focused on staying in the present moment, but within the present moment is the past and the future, even without obsessing on either. I am both seed and the tree, and aren’t we all? I’m sure all of this sounds way too metaphysical and strange. And yet, I can’t help but think for many of us, it’s how we live.

Einstein once wrote: People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion. And it seems lately I am more and more interested in looking past the illusion and surrendering to the idea that my life is not in any way linear, but instead my dead are with me, my past loves are with me, and my childhood is always with me. But just because I am changing my relationship to time, doesn’t mean I don’t want to honor it. I do. I want to honor it and my fascination with it.

In today’s moving poem, we watch as the speaker pays homage to the slipperiness of time and how close we hold our memories, especially those memories in which we felt safe and free.

Old Growth
by Natasha Rao

Backward crossovers into years before: airy
afternoons licking the wooden spoon, pouring soft blades
of grass from a shoe, all ways of saying I miss
my mother. I wish I could remember the gentle lilt
of my brother’s early voice. Instead I hear clearly
the dripping of a basalt foundation. What gets saved—

My father fed my sick goldfish a frozen pea and it lived
for another six years. Outside, pears swathed in socks
ripened, protected from birds. Those bulbous
multicolored days, I felt safe before I knew
the word for it. But how to fossilize a feeling, sustain it
in amber? I keep dreaming in reverse until I reach
a quiet expanse of forest. The dragonflies are large
and prehistoric. Mother watches from a distance
as I move wildly, without fear.

"Old Growth" by Natasha Rao, from LATITUDE copyright © 2021 Natasha Rao. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press