Limón’s extraordinary poems often start with deceptive casualness: she’s driving somewhere. She’s going out to weed the tomatoes. She’s musing over something in the news. From such everydayness, she spins complicated, beautiful, troubling, and inspiring lyrics. The book opens with a version of Genesis: Limón imagines Eve begging the animals to return the favor and “name” her. This short, brilliant lyric sets the stage for all that follows, from Limón’s encounters with birds and other creatures, both dreamed and real, to her long period of adjustment to life in Kentucky and, most of all, her frustrated longing to have a child. The world she lives in, of course, is no Eden. Loved ones die. Her father-in-law has Alzheimer’s. She suffers vertigo, insomnia, and panic attacks. She can’t get pregnant and the signs are ominous: “on my way to the fertility clinic,/I pass five dead animals.” But she also finds comfort in her garden and senses how “with each new name” of a tree she learns, “the world expanded.” If she fears her tendency to brood, identifying her “problem” as being able ‘to see all the angles of what/ could go wrong,” this rich imaginative power also fuels her writing. And not everything does go wrong. While in one poem she feels she’s “supposed to carry grief” instead of a child, in another she declares that “I take out my anger/and lay its shadow/on the stone I rolled/over what broke me.” Call that shadow these defiant, questioning, courageous poems.
The Carrying - Ada Limón