On Ongoingness: a Conversation with Ada Limón and Jaswinder Bolina

Moderated by NOR editor, David Wanczyk

David Wanczyk: We’re talking on Zoom today with Ada Limón, author of five award-winning collections of poetry, and Jaswinder Bolina, author of three acclaimed collections and the recent book of essays Of Color. And we’re talking only 16 days after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, when months of predominantly peaceful protests have been met by ever more ominous counterprotest, when our election is threatened by a virus and dishonesty, when we simply miss our friends, and when many of us are even more exhausted than usual; and yet I’m happy to be having this conversation because these are two writers who have given me a clear-eyed bucking-up in the past, who refuse to ignore the struggle, but find—at least seem to find—a kind of dog-chewed, persevering, loveliness and electricity in their work. Even when, as Limón writes, quote, “the country plummets into a crepitating crater of hatred, isn’t there still something singing?”

And so I want to ask both of you—How are you? First, but also, how are you as artists listening for what’s still singing? How can we—can we resist what feels like the desperation of our country?

Ada Limón: Hmm. Hmm. Just start there? [laughs]

Jaswinder Bolina: An easy a softball to start, to lead off.

AL: I’m doing, I’m doing okay. I’m doing okay. I feel like that’s a daily—I don’t know about you, but I’m almost a little tired of checking in on myself. I feel like every day I’m like, ‘how, how am I doing, how am I doing?’ I think I’m okay. Um, [laughs] I definitely feel like this week in particular was hard. I felt I had been missing people a lot and particularly my family and my parents and my two brothers. I think that has been really intense. As we’re entering the fall and coming up towards the holidays, I usually travel to California quite a bit and not being able to see my parents has been really tough. I’ve been talking to them a lot on the phone and we’ve been doing Zoom calls and FaceTime and all of that stuff.

So I feel connected to them, but just not being able to hug them and not being able to be in the kitchen and have a glass of wine and talk about all this has been getting to me, and it’s been this week in particular where I have started  to feel like I’m kind of raging against it. But I’m getting through, and I think   a lot of how I’m getting through is actually reading and writing. I think that’s been a huge way of helping me. Trying to focus on the small details of the day and living in that. And trying not to get overwhelmed so much by, by trying to predict either a good or ominous future. [laughs]

JB: I would echo so much of that. We have a two-year-old and the grandparents can’t come down here and we can’t take him anywhere. We would have traveled so much of the summer. And I have really, really good days. And then I have just crater days. This morning was like that. I didn’t get enough sleep. I woke up this morning with an old Peggy Lee song . . . “Is That All There Is,” you know? The things that kind of run through my head in all of this.

It’s been in my head for a couple of days and I woke up and that’s like my theme song anthem, because it just feels like everything repeats itself. And,  and when the kind of public dramas, for lack of a better word out there in the world, are exploding. Even then, when I hear our current president speaking and the outrage over this or that—there are days where it feels so consequential and so immediate, and I feel nothing but rage. And other days where I feel like ‘Is that all there is? This is it?’

And it’s so strange to feel yourself alienated from something you feel really passionate about. And I think politics and the national welfare are, for me, things I care a great deal about, but then there are just these moments where I feel so disconnected and so concerned about these personal things. Like, I just want to see my family, I want them to visit, I want to go places. And I start to think about the ways in which we distract ourselves in what used to be called ordinary life. Just catching up with some friends or having a trip coming up, how it insulates you from a certain kind of existential dread, you know—you’re distracted enough.

And maybe that’s where that song comes back because once those distrac- tions part and that, that existential void is just sitting there. And yet at the same time, the lives we’re living right now probably aren’t dissimilar from kind of like the entire span of human history. But you see how things like holidays become so consequential . . . if your day-to-day routine is really, truly redundant. Maybe I hope that I hit on the various point parts of your question a little bit there, Dave, but that’s kind of where I’m at, but I’m, I’m having a good evening. I had a bad morning, I’m having a good evening.

DW: So I’m wondering if the kind of sameness and the missing people and the passion-versus-ennui . . . Are those things that are motivating or demotivating? I imagine it’s been a little bit of both, but can you talk about a way that the last six months, say, has affected your writing or your creative process?

JB: I’ll just quickly say: not having childcare has had one kind of pragmatic and massive impact. My spouse and I, my wife and I thought many times about how productive we may have been had we not had this little human to take care of all the time, and yet at the same time, we’re so thrilled for all this time with our son. But yeah, that’s really had an impact. I can only really write at this time of the day after he goes to sleep. At the same time, I think, in terms of perspective on writing and writing projects, it’s been a strangely productive period for me, perhaps echoing what you just described. There aren’t those distractions there. And so this time that I do get in the evening has been a really kind of fecund time for me. So Ada, how about you? Are you writing a ton or not?

AL: Yeah, I feel similarly. I mean, you know, my husband and I are child-free, so we don’t have those worries, which has been really kind of amazing because I know so many people who are struggling with that. And aside from taking care of the dog, which can be somewhat demanding, I don’t really [laughs] really have that concern. But I was surprised: I wrote a lot in the month of April, and then I didn’t write again in May. And then I worked a lot in the month of June. You know, almost 60, 70 poems, I think. Drafts.

JB: Wow—

AL: rough drafts. And then just followed by long periods of silence. So it’s coming, these waves. And so just now I’m starting to edit them, and see the 17 that aren’t good and the two that are. And also seeing if they have any kind of Ongoingness.

I think that the concern for me when I’m writing—and maybe this is the same way with you guys—when I’m writing in  this place, I  think,  is this just a poem of this moment in  this particular time? And it  has  no sense of time beyond it. Which I think can be good, but also can be limiting. So that’s kind of interesting for me to go back in and edit. And the editing is taking, of course, much, I mean, much, much, much more time because the writing was just getting these great, fresh drafts out and feeling like, ‘Oh, I’ve done something.’ And now it’s like, ‘Did I do something?’ [laughs]

And the answer is often, no. But the things that I am getting something out of, it’s felt good, it’s felt—it’s felt necessary.

JB: But it’s really interesting, your process. I have never been a drafter. I just cannot do it temperamentally if the poem isn’t getting there and it’s been weeks that I’ve been working on it, I will throw it out before I kind of preserve and draft, and I will start. So—I don’t, I don’t have a draft except the current one. You know what I mean? So that’s really amazing. It’s fascinating, it’s weird. It’s compulsive. It’s probably not healthy. [chuckles]

AL: I think that I used to be more like that, but then for years I sort of did  that poem a day, going through the month of April. And then sometimes I just give it to myself as a way of, you know, if I’m in this sort of a rut or even in a depression, or just feeling like I’m not in the world and, and that is sort of my way of getting back in it. And so I see them as exercises and almost like proof of life. It’s not always how I work, but for some reason it’s how I’m working now.

JB: It sounds amazing, because the other problem with doing it the way that I do it is everything risks becoming too precious and too valuable. Like how, after the fact, when you have the book manuscript done, you go and throw out a poem that you spent four weeks trying to hammer together—maybe it’s garbage, you know?

AL: I let them sit for almost two months now, and I find it very interesting that the ones that I wrote in April, I’m having an easier time starting to actually edit and craft into something versus the ones I wrote in June.

So, the more distant I get, the more I can think: ‘okay.’ Because I think that I’m very, I think I’m very attached to my first drafts. I’m very guilty of the new poem frenzy. ‘Oh, okay, send it to The New Yorker.’ But after I had that long period of letting them sit there, I can think, ‘okay, why was I attached to this?’

JB: That’s an interesting thing that I realized: the dovetail between our two processes. I’m not sending anything out. I am letting them just accumulate into the manuscript I’m working on, but I haven’t sent them anywhere. So when I get that New Yorker feeling—and I’ve never been published in The New Yorker, hopefully one day they’ll, I’ll pay the right people and that’ll change. But no, I—

DW: Redacted, redacted.

ALL: [laughing]

JB: But I have that moment where I’m sending this straight away to all of those places and then I just don’t do it. And then I think, let some months go by . . .

AL: I think that that’s similar. The editing process has been so good because I’m actually editing, thinking ‘would I send them out?’ Right. And I love writing with an audience in mind, but I also really love writing not with an audience  in mind, and those are two different things, I think, and so the editing process becomes inviting the public in, in a way that if I do that early on in a draft, I can be just shut down. [laughs]

JB: If you’re thinking about that, you’re toast. If I’m thinking ‘what will Dave and Ada think of this poem?’ day two of working on it, I’ll never get anywhere. It’s gotta be later.

AL: Yes, exactly. Exactly. So it’s this interesting move of: now there’s someone else that may look at this and how do I involve them in this process?

DW: So I’m curious about this conversation on audience and about the writers and the readers who are sitting on your shoulders looking at your work. But are news events on your shoulders, too? Are you thinking about writing something now that’s important or that’s urgent or that has a message more so than you would have a year ago? And I have a line here of yours, Ada, that I read just today. You wrote, “I wish we could go back to the windy dock, drinking pink wine and talking smack. Now it’s gray and pitchfork.” And this, I believe this line is a number of years old, but it spoke freshly today. The idea that things feel gray and pitchfork. And I’m wondering if you both are looking to respond to that pitchfork feeling that’s in the news and in the streets, or if you’re generating separately from that?

AL: I mean, it’s always there, for me, the world is always there. [laughs] I can stare at a bird as long as I want to, but the world is always there. I feel like my job is to not surrender to the great flattening grief and tragedy of humanity. And I take that job very seriously. I think of it as my job to stay. And I want to stay, and sometimes I do write poems, I think, to help myself stay. And if those help other people, that would be wonderful. And in terms of directly responding to political events, I’ve done it. I don’t think I’ve done it successfully. I think other people do it more successfully than I do it. If I’m writing from a place of rage the poem doesn’t survive three days in the drawer.

I look back at it and it doesn’t work. So I think that, in direct response to political mayhem, my response is still to get small, and focus on the macro-micro split. So it’s going very small, but also very large: ‘how does this fit in the eons of time?’ Because I think oftentimes if I respond directly, the poem turns into a polemic. That’s hard, to make a successful poem out of that. Also it presumes I have answers and I . . . a poem has never started or ended with answers for me.

JB: That right there is the crux of it for me. My students are probably sick of hearing me say this, but I have always felt if I don’t learn something in the writing of the poem, there’s zero chance the reader’s going to learn anything either, you know? So I think one of the conundrums about writing topically about an exact event in the news, or trying to respond is that I already know what I think about that event, and so to make art out of that, or to make poetry out of that, for me anyway, is extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible. What would it mean for me to write a poem about my feelings about police brutality and murder? What would it be to write a poem about Donald Trump? Those are not up for debate in my mind in a way that would permit me to engage with them in a way that would be interesting in any way, artistically. And so for me, though, a lot of where my writing comes from is, at its foundation, it’s word play, you know, so there’s a certain amount of: here’s what I’m being attentive to right now, this small thing, this small idea, this local image or, or notion. The fun of it becomes, how do I get a different register of language and how do I get some words that I’ve never used in a poem previously or in any other of my poems? How do I get interesting juxtapositions and tones out of that? When I go into that process, the way that current events or the news tend to enter into my poems is that I— we’re years deep in this language all the time, if you read the news, if you follow current events—I realized this a few times in my last book of poems that I’d never seen Mitch McConnell’s name in a poem, right? And I thought, that’s a couple of words that I’m going to enter into a poem. But I didn’t set out to write a poem about Mitch McConnell, that would be a total laughable failure if I did.

This was a love poem to the person who eventually became my wife. I wrote it a few years ago, and I thought, you just don’t expect that name to appear in a love poem that’s completely earnest and almost saccharine with its affection. And so that’s where the challenge comes in. Once Mitch McConnell makes an appearance, what other language have I never seen in a love poem? And I think, Honda, like the car brand, showed up in that poem and different kinds of words you just start dropping in, and so, it’s almost as if where topicality occurs, it’s . . . it’s almost the illusion of topicality. It’s just the language has come in, but I didn’t set out to write about that topic, if that makes sense—I just deployed the language of that topic, but did it in a weird, backdoor way. I cannot, like Ada, I cannot sit down and just—I know what I feel about certain things, but I don’t think I’m the arbiter of them either. So I don’t need to tell you what to think. I want to give you an experience, and then you can decide what you think.

DW: I was reading Of Color earlier, and, Jaswinder, you wrote something that’s directly relevant to this response. You said, “the only true job of the poet is to destabilize and expand the language; this is how poetry changes the world: by the plodding unending effort of all of us to alter line by line, phrase by phrase, word by word, the way we describe ourselves and every- thing we encounter.” And it’s reminded me of what Ada is saying about macro-micro. And when I, when I feel rage, I  go  small—not to  put  words in your mouth—but this is what I take from your response, Ada. And, but Jaswinder, I’m wondering if this idea of changing things ploddingly, by de- stabilizing the language, adding Honda, or adding Mitch McConnell, to a love poem and saying ‘I’m re-seeing the world’, if that becomes a frustrating artistic pursuit when the political, social encroaching gets so outrageous. Not that it hasn’t always been. And you turn to prose, right? And you turn to more direct argumentation.

JB: The essays, though, I would say there’s a certain similarity there with the poems—I don’t know what I think about the subject that the essay is about until after I’m done writing the essay. And I, I start out with what I think is going to be my thesis and it has never held up—the thesis always falls apart.

In the essay “Writing Like a White Guy,” the very first essay I ever wrote, I thought the premise was going to be that all of my poems sound like they could be written by a white guy and I suck, you know, but it ended up being way more complicated than that. And so I think it’s similar to writing poems and that I’m working through a problem in prose, but I think I turn to those other venues, the other genres, and I think it feels like a slightly different part of my chest and brain are working. It feels like prose is cranial and, [laughing a little bit] poetry is torsal. [more chuckles]

DW: So you’re both talking about the difficulty of, I think, an urgent response to things, even as we feel urgent response. Whether it’s focused on a smaller moment, whether it’s a turn to prose, I’m wondering if you can direct me and direct our readers to those writers who are responding in the moment in those ways that you feel are necessary to you. Who are the voices we need to hear, people that you’re seeing online or seeing with books that are coming out, but are kind of emerging from the current epoch, if you will.

AL: I’ve been reading a lot of recent books, but these are not recent poems  that are about what we’re dealing with right now. But I do think—I just fin- ished John Murillo’s new book. It’s called Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry. Contemporary is spelled with a K, and it’s fantastic, it’s wonderful. There’s parts of it that remind me of Larry Levis, there’s parts of it that remind me of Audre Lorde. He’s just really marvelous. I do think he’s speaking to the current moment of where we are, especially when it comes to police brutality and vio- lence. That book was particularly moving.

JB: I love Murillo’s work. I can’t wait. That’s an interesting question. In terms of an immediate response to the things that are happening, poetry is—there’s  a lag time, right? It’s a frustrating thing to be a writer in this moment because there’s so much you want to respond to, but to do it well takes time. And so your response may not actually make it out into the world until long after the fact. But I think the thing that’s going to distinguish a kind of lasting art from the more ephemeral stuff that we all write is that the moment may, it may pass us by, but the really great art, the observations it makes, the kinds of things it notices and reveals—that’s going to linger for the next situation and the one after that, you know?

And so in that sense, I think it would be really hard to ignore this year’s Pulitzer Prize winning book by Jericho Brown, which very much speaks to   this moment. There’s another book that’s just about to come out by Hafizah Geter—

AL: I started that book—

JB: Un-American. It’s coming out soon. And I hope everybody reads it.

AL: Can I also just add that I do think that what I find is one of the most wonderful things about poetry is that it does, really good poetry does have      a timelessness aspect to it, an ongoingness aspect to it, and I do think that    the poets that I love, I can still turn to and find something right now that is completely blowing my mind and feels like it was written yesterday. I’ve been spending a lot of time with Audre Lorde, and everything Audre Lorde  has written, I’m like, ‘Oh, this could happen—this is right now.’  And then   the wonderful Argentinian poet Alejandra Pizarnik. She has this book called Extracting the Stone of Madness. And it’s wonderful. And I, I mean, you could turn to any page and it feels like it’s in the middle of the pandemic; it feels like it’s dealing with grief. It feels like it’s dealing with the state. There’s just so much happening. Poetry at its best helps in almost any season, even this roughest one that we’re in so far.

JB: The book that’s been on my mind, one of the books that has been on my mind is Evie Shockley’s book, the new black.

AL: —love that book.

JB: I mean, brilliant, amazing book. You open that up and it’s all there. I think the other part of it is that for pundits or observers or ordinary people who think Donald Trump is unique, the Trump era and all these things that are happening are this unique kind of ahistorical moment. That book says, this stuff has been going on.

I just don’t think there are revolutions in the way that we think there are. Do you know what I mean? Like the revolution is not a sudden spark. It’s been coming a long time, good and bad. And I think the protests that we are seeing. . . I have had many moments this summer where the only thing on my mind is just burn it all down. There’s so much anger and fury, and it’s not triggered by this event. It’s triggered by all of the events together and whatever lights the current fuse, it has everything to do with what came before, you know? And so, yes, I couldn’t agree more that the really great books are able to speak to that through time across generations, and across events. And I think that continues to happen. How can you not instantly think of Citizen by Claudia Rankine in the midst of all of this? I mean, the most devastating page of that book is the one that lists the names [of black people killed by police] and then blank pages after that. You know, it’s hard to talk about without getting a lump in my throat that it’s not prescient, it’s just a fact, that there will be more names added to this list. And she wrote that book years ago.

DW: Excellent suggestions. Thank you.

*  *  *

DW: So, I want to ask you both a different kind of question to wrap up. About the images that are sticking with you right now, what your minds are returning to during this time. I think that this may be fun. So Jaswinder, you have lines in your poem, “Portrait of the Horse,” and as I’ve been re-reading both of your books, Jaswinder and Ada, there’s one notable intersection, and that is horses. This is going to get somewhere, I promise! So Jaswinder, you write in “Portrait of Horse,” “Sometimes speaking about the horse is a means of avoiding speaking about myself, which is lousy.” And there’s just something about that ‘which is lousy’ that it is so witty and quick as it admits a sadness.

Ada, in Bright Dead Things and The Carrying, you have equine metaphors throughout, and you both seem to reinvent your images continuously, to go back at similar images and say, ‘how can I revise this? How can I re-know this?’ I guess that got me thinking about metaphors and whether or not there are metaphors right now, as you’re generating your one poem, Jaswinder, that you’re working real hard on, or, Ada, your sixty poems that you’re editing consistently . . . are there metaphors or images or equivalencies or associations that are leaping to your mind consistently and driving your writing? I’m not asking what is the image that represents 2020 or anything like that, but I’d love you to talk about what your artistic mind is circling around and circling back to.

JB: Ada, I love all those equine images by the way. And I don’t know anything about horses and I read the poems and I learn while also really loving the writing. But anyway, sorry, you were about to say something.

AL: Aw, thank you. Well, horses are still, they’re still all around here. I mean, you can’t live in Kentucky without thinking about horses or seeing horses. Horses are big in The Carrying and in Bright Dead Things. And then I feel like someone told me that beetles really appear in The Carrying many places. And  I was like, ‘Oh yeah, beetles.’ And I feel right now, things have gotten so small because I’m just so focused on my little plot in the backyard, you know? I do think I’m very focused on birds. I always am, but I know the specific jay that comes at one point in the day, and then I know the one that comes at a different time, and I know that this family of cardinals, that these are the baby cardinals that were born by the house. And so I’m feeling very attached, maybe in an unhealthy way, to, to my families of birds that I feed and give water to and give suet to. And there’s a second feeder for the VIPs . . .

OTHERS: [laughing]

AL: It’s a lot going on. So I think this caretaking that I’m doing with them, I think is a way of trying to do some caretaking of my mind and some caretaking of my body and my soul and remembering to feed and water and that things can flourish. I think that on just a small level, if there’s one sort of overarching meta- phor that I keep coming back to, I think it is the habit of . . . of offering to them. I know that they can do just fine without it, right? And they don’t care about me. And yet somehow the offering to them feels, especially when I’m not really putting a ton of work out into the world, it feels like some kind of offering, and I think that small offerings are what I keep coming back to.

JB: Interesting to follow up The Carrying with ‘The Offering,’ right?

AL: [laughing] Might happen! You might’ve just named this book.

JB: That’d be extraordinary.

AL: What about you, Jaswinder. In Miami, you have a great bird life.

JB: Oh my God, the birds here are crazy! Peacocks are not native here, but there are peacocks everywhere. We—all spring, there was, like, one peacock and several toucans that just lived in the neighborhood. And I take my son out and walk every morning, and we would have to wait for the giant peacock with its tail feathers, all fanned out to kind of finish its little dance before we could go by. And all of these things I just am usually completely oblivious to. Another poet—I think of Kate Nuernberger. She has all this voluminous knowledge of animals and birds and trees and plants.

I’m like, ‘how do you know this?’ And I’m reading Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s book of essays, World of Wonders, right now, and she has this crazy, volu- minous knowledge and like Ross Gay has all of this wild imagery. My im- agery is way more, I think, urban and it’s just where I grew up. I grew up   in Chicago. I never learned enough about nature though. I’ve always been awed. But in answer to your question, Dave, the stuff that’s in my head right now: I had started writing this new book . . . a bunch of elegies, before all   of this stuff happened.

I have a Bob Dylan elegy—and Bob Dylan’s not dead, but it’s actually an el- egy written for a dog whose name is Bob Dylan. I’m trying to mess around with things like that. The most recent poem that I finished was called “The Apology Factory,” and it was . . . I keep noticing all these politicians and public figures screw up and they come out with the standard boiler-plate apology or some- thing slightly more. And I thought, you know, it’s sort of funny, these all seem to be kind of stamped out somewhere.

And then I wrote this poem imagining what that place would be like, and then the speaker works in the apology factory—he works the night shift at the apology factory.

AL: That’s great!

JB: Thank you! It was a goofy, weird thing, but I like it, and it probably stemmed from some minor argument I’d had with my wife, like where I wanted to apol- ogize to her. And so I’m just like one of these people who has to now come up with a form apology. So that’s what’s in my head right now. Trying to take the things that I’m really kind of too accustomed to, and trying to think of weird, different ways of looking at them.

AL: I love that. It adds the surreality. The machine behind the machine.

JB: So much of what’s on my mind right now, even before this happened with this plague and this lockdown . . . it feels like society’s being revised and rewrit- ten right in front of our eyes. But also I keep getting older and I realize looking at my son over the last two years—just how different your vantage point be- comes. I’m at an age where I can think in terms of decades and understand in terms of decades, while he is thinking in terms of: what’s the next three minutes going to bring.

And so I start to think, ‘well, what happens if I take that and scale it up? What would it mean to think on the scale of centuries, on the scale of civilizations, on the scale of planets and the cosmos itself and geology and all of these different things.’ And when you start doing that, it sucks you right into that existential void I was mentioning before, but at the other end of it, it can generate some really satisfying revisions of what you’re used to.

David Wanczyk: So thank you so much for your time here. I just want to give you a chance for a last word or two and just go back to my first question. How able we are to sing right now? And it seems like you, in your own ways, are finding ways to do that. But I’m also wondering if you feel that there will be an ongoing change in the way that you work or compose. Will we sing differently in the coming decade, speaking of decades?

Jaswinder Bolina: I will say this. One thing that has been on my mind through all of this is how grateful I am this did not happen when I was nine years old and it’s 1987, because I think about how we can do this—be on Zoom, and I see my parents and my in-laws and other family every single day.

It would have been so bizarre and, and probably much worse than it is now, but at the same time, maybe we would have just gone out and played in the park and had a great time, I don’t know? But that’s a long way of getting to the thing that I want to address about the next 10 years or 20 years or 50 years. The one thing that we’ve talked about a lot in poetry is form versus content.

And one of the things that gets left out of that ongoing discussion in poetry    is the role technology plays in what form is even possible and what content is even possible.

And so I think that if I start to let that third vector come in, technology, then it would be impossible to pretend to like the existence of Zoom, national or international readings from your local bookstore on a regular basis, and communicating with people in these ways . . . that’s almost assuredly going to have some kind of impact on the way we operate moving forward. I don’t know what that will look like. I have no way of knowing that, but I already think that Twitter and Instagram have wildly transformed poetry, and I think that’s only going to become more the case when you get into augmented reality and being able to put on some glasses where it feels like we’re all in the same room together. Now imagine doing that with a poem by Dickinson or Tennyson or Shakespeare or Ada Limón, right? It just becomes a different kind of method of delivery and thinking about poems and thinking about audience. I think that that will subtly change the way we do all of it. That’s my big global thought.

Ada Limón: I think that’s wonderful. I think that’s all true. For me, I think that there are a few things that I want to hang on to. I don’t think I realized how much I was traveling and I don’t think I realized how hard that was on my mind and my body and my soul, and that this stillness, even when I feel anxious and in the terrible, grieving world, I want to remember that that stillness is there. And that’s something that was unexpected for me. Even in its anxiety and terror. The fact of actually having days where I’m not on the road and just being able to be home and read, read a whole book cover to cover and write notes or write poems, or, you know, look at the birds. I think that—it has been a unique time for me in that way. And it was unexpected. And I know I’m privileged to say that.

And I think the other part of it is that I think there is the global reckoning that we’re in, that it finally feels like we’re grieving together for the first time. And I know that we’re—not all of us are grieving. But I do feel like there have been so many people who have been grieving the loss of what we have called the American Dream in so many different ways for so long. And now I think with the reckoning, with the pandemic, with the great grief of the many lives that have been lost, I do think that there is a collective grief that is uniting us in some way. And I think that that is going to be an inevitable shift as we move forward.

And I think that we are going to carry that with us. Those of us that make it through, I think that we will hold onto it. And it’ll carry, you know, it’ll be with us for, for so long.

And I think in some ways there can be a unity in that, I hope. I hope. It’s not so much an unveiling, but it’s been lifting a little bit of the veil. And maybe we can work towards that reckoning and recognizing of the truth on a large scale.

It’s a paradigm shift and, you know . . . we, we, we will be changed.

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