680: The Years That The Days and Months Turned Into

680: The Years That The Days and Months Turned Into

680: The Years That The Days and Months Turned Into


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

Few things have proven more useful in my life than my own imagination. It’s not simply something that should be fostered in children or artists, imagination saves all of us. Constantly. Sometimes before something has happened I imagine it in its entirety so by the time it occurs, I am ready, prepared. I have imagined myself into situations. And most certainly, I have imagined myself out of situations.

Sometimes the imagination is dreamy and ethereal and fantastical. Other times, it’s practical. If I’m about to send an email, if I'm a little worked up, I pause and imagine what it might be like to be on the receiving end of such an email. When I am struggling with my own anger or despair, I imagine a different outcome, I even try to will a different outcome into being. I am not exaggerating that my own imagination has rescued me again and again.

I want to celebrate that. Shout it out. Because, in some ways, it is what makes me an artist, but it’s also what allows me a sense of endless possibilities. I do not just live in the limitation of my own human body, I live in the boundlessness of my imagination.

Once when I was very sick in 2015, I imagined myself dancing and moving with joy. I pictured myself in the ocean and then being part of the ocean, moving as easily as water. And even though I was largely immobilized at the time, I feel like these visualizations and fantasies and creative thoughts are what gave me peace. I wasn’t just me, I was a part of everything.

Today’s poem pays homage to the imagination and that sense of connectedness to the world that can help to heal us. I love how this poem opens up endless possibilities of what it is to be alive on this planet.

The Years That The Days and Months Turned Into
by Shafer Hall

I was the kid who jumped
in the puddle in the rain,
and I was the rain
and I was the street
and I was the sky
reflected in the rain on the street

I was a trolley car engineer
and I was the trolley car

I was a scientist bent over a microscope
until the muscles in my back were knotted
and I was the tiny stuff in the dish
at which she stared

I was a song
and I was the old man
who sang to pass the time
and I was time that passed
and I was the comfort that came
and the sadness that was

I was a trash barrel fire
and the men who stood around it

I was a firefighter
and I was the coffee
the firefighter drank
to stay awake 
through the disaster
that I was

I was the corn
and I was the folk singer
who protested me
cause I was changed

I was the angry one, and I was the sad one,
and I am the head shaking in wonder

I am a pile of bones
and I am the satiated parasites
in the dirt below the pile of bones
and I am the dirt who waits
for the rain

"The Years That the Days and Months Turned Into" by Shafer Hall. Used by permission of the poet.