[encore] 689: Alive at the End of the World

[encore] 689: Alive at the End of the World

[encore] 689: Alive at the End of the World

This episode was originally released on June 3, 2022.


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I was recently in Provincetown, Massachusetts giving a poetry craft talk at the Fine Arts Work Center. After the event, I met a few of the poetry fellows there. The fellowship is for emerging writers and artists, and consists of seven months of free housing at the Fine Arts Work Center as well as a small stipend. By the time I made it there to speak, the fellowship was nearing its end. Folks were already preparing for whatever upcoming plans they had: various jobs, teaching gigs, or — the great unknown. You could feel that antsy graduation vibe as they spoke, each of them trying to surrender to whatever was coming next.

But what moved me most was hearing them talk about the community they built together over the seven months of cold weather on the very tip of Cape Cod. They had writing workshops and provided each other with deadlines and prompts. The way they praised each other and spoke about each other’s work was so admirable. It made me think about the ways we build and foster community. Especially as artists. It’s so important to find ways to encourage each other as we choose a life that’s a little outside the fold.

Provincetown is not only an artist community, but an active and flourishing LGBTQIA community. And there’s a feeling there that everyone who has decided to pave their own way, to make their own path, can find a connection to P’Town. If you permit me the cliché, it sometimes feels like, “the road less traveled” is actually Highway 6 that takes you right to the whales breaching at Herring Cove or straight to the A-House where you can dance all night with abandon.

Finding a community, finding connection, feels like it’s never been more important. With all the personal and public agonies everyone I know is going through, we need our communities, our support system, we need to both stare at the sea with each other and turn the music up and dance with each other. As I drove out of Provincetown that Friday morning, I found it hard to leave, but sometimes it’s enough to know it’s there, that a place like that exists.

Today’s poem is a serious argument for community and the rebellion of joy. I love this poem for how it shows us the importance of defending our right to pleasure.

Alive at the End of the World
by Saeed Jones

The End of the World was a nightclub.
Drag queens with machetes and rhinestoned

machine guns guarded the red and impassable
door on Friday nights. Just a look at the crowd,

all dressed up and swaying outside, made people
want to yell the truth about themselves to anyone

who’d listen, but no one heard. The End of the World
was loud. The End of the World leaked music

like radiation, and we loved the neon echo, even
though it taunted us or maybe because it taunted us:

kids leaning out of windows hours after bedtime,
cabdrivers debating fares at the curb just for an excuse

to linger, pastors who’d pause at the corner and vow
that if they ever got inside, they’d burn it all down.

"Alive at the End of the World" from ALIVE AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Saeed Jones, © 2022, Saeed Jones, published by Coffee House Press. Used by permission of Saeed Jones.