723: Divorce

723: Divorce

723: Divorce


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

On my friend’s property in Sonoma, they’ve given me a little place to stay over the last 12 years. It’s been my landing spot, my haven, where I can come to my home valley and have a place to stay every few months or so. Recently, after visiting my parents at their house for dinner, I went up to the apartment in the hills. My friends were traveling so the property was empty. I was working on poems and emails and work before I called it a night. Even while busy, I felt my love for my little home away from everything.

But right as I was about to wrap up work and get into bed, it sounded as if someone was shaking the handle to the kitchen door, and then they stopped and shook the other door handle. My heart was racing. I could barely breathe. I didn’t have a plan for this. I grabbed a heavy flashlight that could double as a weapon and said through the screen “Hello!” and there was no answer. I said it louder and with more gusto. “Hello!” And nothing.

So then, I did what was terrifying me the most, and I opened the door. Right then, a bird tried to fly right into my face and I shut the door quickly, preventing it from attacking me or getting inside the apartment. I didn’t scream, but I said, “Why are you doing this!” And I meant it.

It took me a while to get to sleep after that, but when I finally woke in the morning, I opened the door and all was quiet and there were a few sad gray feathers on the threshold. I couldn’t figure out what it meant. In my head I kept thinking of the word, “Visitation.” Perhaps it was attracted to the light, or to the moths and mosquitos attracted to the light inside the kitchen? I don’t know. But I know that I hoped it survived. I hoped it could make it without a few feathers. Perhaps it was a way of telling me that I needed to stop being in such a frenzy.

Today’s poem takes the metaphor of a bird visitation and transforms it into a symbol of resilience.

by José A. Alcantara

He has flown headfirst against the glass
and now lies stunned on the stone patio,
nothing moving but his quick beating heart.
So you go to him, pick up his delicate
body and hold him in the cupped palms
of your hands. You have always known
he was beautiful, but it’s only now, in his stillness,
in his vulnerability, that you see the miracle
of his being, how so much life fits in so small
a space. And so you wait, keeping him warm
against the unseasonable cold, trusting that
when the time is right, when he has recovered
both his strength and his sense of up and down,
he will gather himself, flutter once or twice,
and then rise, a streak of dazzling
color against a slowly lifting sky.

"Divorce" by José A. Alcantara. Used by permission of the poet.