I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.
I’ve always had a hard time trying to categorize myself or figure out what type of person I am. I think yes, I am stubborn, or yes, I am very flexible, or yes, I am an introvert, or yes, I am the life of the party. But what seems to be truer is that I am many things and those many things can change and alter and unwind at any time. This is a hard thing to come to terms with when everything seems to require a short synopsis of who we are. The world requires a summing up, the world requires the Cliffs Notes, the tagline, the headline.
Under a Twitter handle, the bio reads: dad, fisherman, whisky lover. Or under an Instagram account it reads “Transformational Healer” with a sexy profile photo, or “Writer, Publisher, Artist, and lover of all things New Mexico.” But none of these things are who we truly are. I want to resist categorization. I was just thinking of a man I know who got sober a few years back. Once, you would have called him the funniest velociraptor in the room. Now, you’d call him the funniest panda. People change. And should be allowed to change.
When people have interviewed me, it’s hard for me to see the headline or the “hook” in the finished product, because it always feels untrue. As someone who used to write ad copy and headlines and work at boiling everything down into one good sharp sentence, I get it. I know why we need it, but it still makes me feel like taking off every label anyone has ever given me and jumping in the ocean to wash off all the words.
Today’s poem is that act of defiance, an act of resisting the easy summing up of the self. It reminds me of all the wild and different selves we hold inside.
by Alex Lemon
I can be a hive Of wasps, three Hearted & popping The top off. I can be Seen & then poof. I can be relied upon To fix the lights, to Wrench the leak From the faucet. I can be given, all For the low cost of nothing ninety Nothing. I can pull A tiger out of my Mouth & be the Queen of hearts on Its sandpaper tongue. I can be black magic Or boring as hell. I can Be the only thing Digging deep holes In your head. I can Be the slowest Emergency—be gone For a week or go Missing for even Longer. I can be Words thrown Blindward into The blue sky, The grunts, hums That fall back To the earth. I can be not Leaving you Alone, lever & levitating. I can be the exact Opposite, too— Scalding coffee in A squirt gun, A Ziploc bag filled With powdered Bones. I can be fucked Up, running messy Circles with a glow- In-the-dark noose Floating like a halo Above my skull. I can be cannon Balls on a ship Of fools—a gold Coin found In the ear. I can be Another me that Can’t stop going. I can be never Feeling. I can be Part of this paradise Around us, be Whatever stands Up from the dark To blow a kiss.
"Credo" by Alex Lemon. Used by permission of the poet.