I’ve quoted my favorite poet, Ada Limón, several times throughout the history of this column. Her poems “The Leash” and “Instructions on Not Giving Up” have been key parts of my survival kit for years. Whenever I’m feeling down, I find myself returning not only to the familiar rhythm and lyricism of her work but also to her emphasis on survival. I was overjoyed when she submitted to the literary magazine I founded a few years ago. And when I realized she had included the poem we published in her latest poetry collection …
Well. Needless to say, I may have screamed a little.
“The Carrying,” her latest poetry collection, came out a while back, so she’s been attending promotional events all over the country. A week ago, she was in Minneapolis for a reading, and luckily for me, it was at an accessible venue — which is rare, I’ve discovered, especially in the Twin Cities. When I messaged the venue on Facebook to make sure the building was accessible, they mentioned the accessible parking spots next to each of the building’s entrances. Whenever I attend something in the cities, I usually end up having to park down the street from the venue, so I was pleasantly surprised. I RSVP’d to the Facebook event and promptly ordered every single one of Ada’s books I could find on Amazon.
I was weirdly nervous heading into the venue. The parking spots were available, the building was accessible, and everything went according to plan, but I still felt unsettled. The venue was right by U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Vikings play, and a vibrant purple glow lit the parking lot. It all felt appropriately sci-fi, with the cityscape rising around me and the sky dark yet punctured with glittery lights.
My dad isn’t much of a poetry person, so while he agreed to drive me, I was going to the event solo. That, I realize now, was the source of my unease. Whenever I’ve attended events downtown, I’ve been with friends, family, or caregivers — I’ve never once been alone. If I needed something, I could easily shoot my dad a text, but it was still strange, sitting in the aisle with my lap full of poetry books, trying to act as if I belonged.
I’m not great around large groups of people, so I tensed the moment people started filing in. If I was normal, I remember thinking, I would try to make friends; there’s no crowd more stereotypically me than the poetry crowd. But it was loud — too loud for me to make myself heard — so I sat with my stack of books and idly wondered if I should try writing poetry again.
Eventually, one of the venue employees approached me because I brought a copy of Ada’s first poetry collection, something he hadn’t seen in a while. He showed my copy to a coworker, and when Ada took her seat, he showed it to her as well. I watched with bated breath as he handed my paperback to her. He came back a few minutes later and asked if I wanted her to sign my books, to which I said yes and please and thank you so much. I didn’t actually get to meet her, but in the end, I was fine with that. I’m not sure if she would’ve been able to hear me, and anyway, isn’t there a rule about never meeting your heroes?
It was surreal, honestly. She didn’t read “The Leash,” which was a little disappointing, as it’s my favorite poem of hers, and also probably my favorite poem period. But she did read “Instructions on Not Giving Up,” a bright spot in what has felt like the endless gloom of fall. And, more importantly, I did it! I attended an event downtown all by my lonesome. It might not seem like much, but with SMA, every little bit of independence counts.
As I go into this week, and all the weeks after, I’ll try and conjure the magic of the poem Monstering is publishing in its next issue. Like in “Wonder Woman,” I will try to be “a woman, by a river, indestructible.”
Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.