652: Credo

652: Credo

652: Credo


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.