658: Shot in Sobriety

658: Shot in Sobriety

658: Shot in Sobriety


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I remember once sitting at a bar in my twenties and realizing how easily I could give my life away to oblivion. It wasn’t even the idea of drinking necessarily, but the idea of being filled up, giving in to that constant filling, that way of avoiding the big empty, all of it made sense to me.

I have learned throughout my life to ask myself what is it that I really need, when I’m reaching for something, whether it’s food or booze or sugar. And sometimes the answer is obvious, like a hug, or to cry, or to make art, and sometimes it’s more ethereal. What I need then is to escape for a brief second, escape from this mind, this body, this earthbound self. And at times I give in to that need and at times I don’t, but the awareness is there. I’m interested in how we discover our own intentions and our own desires.

I had a friend once who operated from a place of scarcity all the time. Nothing you could give could fill her up. Nothing she could obtain could fill her up, not success, not love, not kindness. And I realized that if I kept giving and giving in hopes that someday she would be satisfied, I would be depleted and she, she would still not be full. I have always cared for this person, but I recognize myself in her. That part of me that desires endlessly, that wants everything and wants it now and when I have it, I want more. It’s part of all of us.

Today’s poem is an exploration of that want, that desire to be filled. I admire how this poem interrogates not only the need, but the why of that need.

Shot in Sobriety
by Joan Naviyuk Kane

I return
			        there, for a moment—

	          summoning back the river from its source
							                                                             bricked over, taken suddenly
from its source

Enduring the claw that, in actuality, outlives its uselessness as a claw,
the crucible of circumstance, a deterioration beyond my control—

at worst, radical emptiness reminds us
						                                          of our humanity, as do other humans
when the romance takes leave & all we see
							                                                could be musquash
mirage-bright, gnawing away its third leg
							                                                         to make way back to a sandbar—
down the shoal where the fish school like fish.

I cut a prism of dark light from the sky & realized / recognized it as a poem / 
the way it was lit gold and hued like night, too.

Someone from a TRAIL TRIBE
						                                                               of smoking
perfectos so tarry… one must cut the stogie twice
			                                (with a guillotine)
to induce DAPL to flow through to the lungs.

In a way, the animal detaches itself from truth.
I might lose myself amidst such strange propulsions.

In a way, I am fooled into rooting for a cause,
one that I clearly hate. There’s a hole here.

I notice it even in my urgent heat.
I take heed so you can take some, too.

After all, I like my beauty spooky & am
warmed by my worries when they require me
to inquire:
		             where do you keep your nothing,
                              & please

                                                              can I have some?

"Shot in Sobriety" by Joan Naviyuk Kane from DARK TRAFFIC © 2021 Joan Naviyuk Kane. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.