This new book of poetry from Ada Limón (1976) is definitely one of the best I’ve read all year. How to choose just one…
“The Same Thing”
There’s an awful story in the news.
For days you cannot sleep; it’s too hot, it’s too cold.
It’s just a story in the news.
Not another human, not a whole country,
not another animal, just a piece of paper.
Then you feel a little better.
You go to the train and wear your headphones,
you listen to a sad song that sounds familiar.
You pass a store window and there’s someone
you don’t know walking where you’re walking: heels,
a summer dress, hair tied up too fancy for the week.
The television says tomorrow night they will
shed some light on hell.
How far do we need to search for some bad thing?
Hell is not beneath us, not a bargaining chip with your children.
You come home on the train and you have
bought gifts and tried to be decent.
This is how your life will go, you know that. Day after day.
Awful acceptance: the soft life of your footprints.
You start to think of the alternative,
you shake your real shirt off in the hallway.
Would it be the same if you were born in Mexico? Life.
Cuba? Ireland? 1974?
You miss everyone. Even the people you read about today
you didn’t know, their faces on the brain as if on paper.
You sit on the balcony,
which is really a fire escape, but you call it
the balcony to make it sound better.
You wear the slip your grandmother gave you
fifteen years ago, the weather is nice, California nice.
You sing a little, call your family, you think, things aren’t so bad.
You say you love the world, so love the world.
Maybe you don’t even say it for yourself,
Maybe you move your mouth like everyone
moves their mouth. Maybe your mouth is the same
mouth as everyone’s, all trying to say the same thing.