The Carrying

The Carrying

by Ada Limón


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From National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Ada Limón comes The Carrying—her most powerful collection yet.

Vulnerable, tender, acute, these are serious poems, brave poems, exploring with honesty the ambiguous moment between the rapture of youth and the grace of acceptance. A daughter tends to aging parents. A woman struggles with infertility—“What if, instead of carrying / a child, I am supposed to carry grief?”—and a body seized by pain and vertigo as well as ecstasy. A nation convulses: “Every song of this country / has an unsung third stanza, something brutal.” And still Limón shows us, as ever, the persistence of hunger, love, and joy, the dizzying fullness of our too-short lives. “Fine then, / I’ll take it,” she writes. “I’ll take it all.”

InBright Dead Things, Limón showed us a heart “giant with power, heavy with blood”—“the huge beating genius machine / that thinks, no, it knows, / it’s going to come in first.” In her follow-up collection, that heart is on full display—even asThe Carryingcontinues further and deeper into the bloodstream, following the hard-won truth of what it means to live in an imperfect world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781571315120
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publication date: 08/14/2018
Pages: 120
Sales rank: 131,528
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Ada Limón is the author of four books of poetry, includingBright Dead Things, which was named a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Kingsley Tufts Award. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and American Poetry Review, among others. She lives in both Kentucky and California.

Read an Excerpt


I’d forgotten how much

I like to grow things
, I shout

to him as he passes me to paint

the basement. I’m trellising

the tomatoes in what’s called

a Florida weave. Later, we try

to knock me up again. We do it

in the guest room because that’s

the extent of our adventurism

in a week of violence in Florida

and France. Afterwards,

the sunstill strong though lowering

inevitably to the horizon, I check

on the plants in the back, my

fingers smelling of sex and tomato

vines. Even now, I don’t know much

about happiness. I still worry

andwant an endless stream of more,

but some days I can see the point

in growing something, even if

it’s just to say I cared enough.


The Raincoat

When the doctor suggested surgery

and a brace for all my youngest years,

my parents scrambled to take me

to massage therapy, deep tissue work,

osteopathy, and soon my crooked spine

unspooled a bit, I could breathe again,

and move more in a body unclouded

by pain. My mom would tell me to sing

songs to her the whole forty-five-minute

drive to Middle Two Rock Road and forty-

five minutes back from physical therapy.

She’dsay, even my voice sounded unfettered

by my spine afterwards. So I sang and sang,

because I thought she liked it. I never

asked her what she gave up to drive me,

or how her day was before this chore. Today,

at her age, I was driving myself home from yet

another spine appointment, singing along

to some maudlin, but solid song on the radio,

andI saw a mom take her raincoat off

and give it to her young daughter when

the storm took over the afternoon. My god,

I thought, my whole life I’ve been under her

raincoat thinking it was somehow a marvel

that I never got wet.


Dead Stars

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 Antila, Centarus,

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.

, 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?


Wonder Woman

Standing at the swell of the muddy Mississippi

after the Urgent Care doctor had just said, Well,

sometimes shit happens
, I fell fast and hard

for New Orleans all over again. Pain pills swirled

in the purse along with a spell for later. It’s taken

a while for me to admit, I am in a raging battle

with my body, a spinal column thirty-five degrees

bent, vertigo that comes and goes like a DC Comics

villain nobody can kill. Invisible pain is both

a blessing and a curse. You always look so happy,

said a stranger once as I shifted to my good side

grinning. But that day, alone on the riverbank,

brass blaring from the Steamboat Natchez,

out of the corner of my eye, I saw a girl, maybehalf my age,

dressed, for no apparent reason, as Wonder Woman.

She strutted by in all her strength and glory, invincible,

eternal, and when I stood to clap (because who wouldn’t have),

she bowed and posed like she knew I needed a myth,

—a woman, by a river, indestructible.


The Year of the Goldfinches

There were two that hung and hovered

by the mud puddle and the musk thistle.

Flitting from one splintered fence post

to another, bathing in the rainwater’s glint

like it was a mirror to some other universe

where things were more acceptable, easier

than the place I lived. I’d watch for them:

the bright peacocking male, the low-watt

female on each morning walk, days spent

digging for some sort of elusive answer

to the question my curving figure made.

Later, I learned that they were a symbol

of resurrection. Of course they were,

my two yellow-winged twins feasting

on thorns and liking it.

Table of Contents



A Name


How Most of the Dreams Go

The Leash

Almost Forty


On a Pink Moon

The Raincoat

The Vulture & the Body

American Pharaoh

Dandelion Insomnia

Dream of the Raven

The Visitor

Late Summer after a Panic Attack


Dead Stars

Dream of Destruction



The Burying Beetle

How We Are Made

The Light the Living See

The Dead Boy

What I Want to Remember


The Millionth Dream of Your Return

Bald Eagles in a Field

I’m Sure about Magic

Wonder Woman

The Real Reason

The Year of the Goldfinches

Notes on the Below

Sundown and All the Damage Done

On a Lamp Post Long Ago

Of Roots & Roamers

Killing Methods

Full Gallop

Dream of the Men

A New National Anthem


The Contract Says: We’d Like the Conversation to Be Bilingual

It’s Harder


Against Belonging

Instructions on Not Giving Up

Would You Rather

Maybe I’ll Be Another Kind of Mother


What I Didn’t Know Before


The Last Thing

Love Poem with Apologies for My Appearance


Sacred Objects

Sometimes I Think My Body Leaves a Shape in the Air

Cannibal Woman


From the Ash Inside the Bone

Time Is on Fire

After the Fire


The Last Drop

After His Ex Died

Sparrow, What Did You Say?

Notes & Acknowledgments

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