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3 poems by Ada Limón

The First

Down to the basics of the basics,
deep star on the horizon, full blown
vision in the mountains. These are the cave
drawings, the beginning of our precious
pieces of self worth, our arms holding
ourselves, our arms made of paper,
our paper arms holding our beating
organs inside our paper selves.


The Russian River

In the 1973 Ford LTD we took Highway Twelve
and headed toward the wild Russian River,
it was the summer of our final year of high school,
we were all so stoned that the world was perfectly defined
by goodness and realness and the opposite of those.
It was 98 degrees and even with the windows open
it was hard to breathe. Outside of Guerneville
we found the party—beautiful bodies jumping off
the cliffs into the deepest part, a raft of natural
naked women floating like an old cigarette ad
down the current. I was going to marry you.
Hours into the afternoon we swam to each other
and walked upriver. I remember thinking this
was what life was, and what I had always wanted,
outside, by the river, being pressed on a warm, flat
rock as if our wet imprint there would matter,
as if to say, I am holding on. I am holding on.


This Practice

They say the first thing that goes
is the short-term memory. You forget
your keys, you forget your address,
you forget the name of the president.
I like to think it’s just a matter of practice—
we’ve had more time to practice the memory
of our favorite light, our brother’s face, the
creek that runs down the center of our town.
I want to practice. Like the Russian soldier
who had to make up a word to say how
hard he would fight, said he would fight
“fiercefully,” that’s how I will remember you,
that’s how I will practice—“fiercefully.”


*The First was a finalist for the Best of the Net 2007.

Listen to the author read these poems.

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