Poem of the Week: Dead Stars
How many times this year have we heard or expressed a wish for 2020 to be over? It's been quite the year, and for many, there is a sense of hopelessness or futility, a notion that we're trapped in a "nest of trying." But what if we listen to poet Ada Limón—what if we acknowledge that "we are not unspectacular things" and ride out this last month of the year by surviving more, loving harder, standing under the stars and launching our demands for a better world into the sky? Limón, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, pens poetry that can be humorous, snarky, emotional, culturally relevant and timely, full of the everyday, yet leaping to the vastness of the stars. Somehow she continuously unearths hope, and perhaps it's poets like her that we need most at the close of this year.
In Camden, we are lucky to be able to look up at night and truly see the full and endless array of stars, the constellations, the ones we can hitch our hopes upon. I think I'll close the year with Limón's enchanting verse rolling across my tongue as I stare up at this sky every night—a mantra for hopefulness as we close out this year and move onto the next together.
Out here, there’s a bowing even the trees are doing. Winter’s icy hand at the back of all of us. Black bark, slick yellow leaves, a kind of stillness that feels so mute it’s almost in another year.
I am a hearth of spiders these days: a nest of trying.
We point out the stars that make Orion as we take out the trash, the rolling containers a song of suburban thunder.
It’s almost romantic as we adjust the waxy blue recycling bin until you say, Man, we should really learn some new constellations.
And it’s true. We keep forgetting about Antlia, Centaurus, Draco, Lacerta, Hydra, Lyra, Lynx.
But mostly we’re forgetting we’re dead stars too, my mouth is full of dust and I wish to reclaim the rising—
to lean in the spotlight of streetlight with you, toward what’s larger within us, toward how we were born.
Look, we are not unspectacular things. We’ve come this far, survived this much. What
would happen if we decided to survive more? To love harder?
What if we stood up with our synapses and flesh and said, No. No, to the rising tides.
Stood for the many mute mouths of the sea, of the land?
What would happen if we used our bodies to bargain
for the safety of others, for earth, if we declared a clean night, if we stopped being terrified,
if we launched our demands into the sky, made ourselves so big people could point to us with the arrows they make in their minds,
rolling their trash bins out, after all of this is over?
- Ada Limón
From The Carrying