757: February Augury

757: February Augury

757: February Augury


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I’m a big believer in omens. In signs. Listening and watching and noticing what the world is telling you. I’ve wondered over an image for some time trying to figure out what it meant, pondered what the karmic implications of certain events might be. I have made myself nearly sick with worry over what certain animals which cross my path mean when I’m in crisis. Or even when I’m not in crisis. I’ve said things to myself like, “If the door is unlocked that means this is meant to be. If it is locked, something else will come true.”

I don’t want you to think less of me, but I can’t help but believe in signs because life gives you no clues as to how it’s going to go. My stepfather, every time I bring up something like an omen or a symbol, he makes the joke, “I don’t hang out with witches.” To which I laugh and laugh, because I’m not a witch, but I very much would like to hang out with some.

I was once out walking — where we used to live in Kentucky, very rural and full of gorgeous meandering backcountry roads. And I saw a white cow just standing in the middle of the road. It felt like it was an omen for sure. It was a beautiful cow, and when I approached, it trotted off to the side slowly and made its way back through a hole in the fence. I discerned that this sign was about freedom and safety.

I had just moved to Kentucky and was full of doubts about how I felt about the place, but I never doubted how I felt about the land itself. Seeing that beautiful white cow just standing there in the middle of the road, made me wonder about what it was to choose freedom and choose home. The cow went back home. On its own volition, to its pasture. I began to wonder what it would be like to choose Kentucky as a safe place for myself, a place that let me wander back and forth through the fence.

Signs are always what we make of them, aren’t they? Maybe it’s less about what the omen itself is, but instead what it is that we need to listen to, what it is that our bodies are telling us in that moment. In that sense, watching for signs is just another way of checking in with yourself.

Today’s poem focuses in on what it is to be the watcher of signs, and thus to let the world open to you.

February Augury
by Sarah Ghazal Ali

Yulan magnolias blossom first 
as birds

little feathered fists
I admit to

imagining could harm me,
extending barefaced

from trees, the known
homes of jinn

I’m told. The night deepens and
locusts halo my head

or don’t. Believe me
I barely believe

the heralds I’ve seen, the mirror
windowed if I stare

a beat too long, my face refracting
others, foremothers,

my beloved’s hands rising
in supplication under winter

rain, stopping after spotting
the dead sparrow by the door

bent like a comma—
as if asking him

to pause, or telling me
to wait.

"February Augury'" by Sarah Ghazal Ali. Used by permission of the poet.