Get Lit Minute | Ada Limón

February 2, 2022

In this week's episode of the Get Lit Minute, your weekly poetry podcast, we spotlight the life and work of poet, Ada Limón.  She is the author of five poetry collections, including The Carrying, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. Her fourth book Bright Dead Things was named a finalist for the National Book Award, a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.



This episode includes a reading of an excerpt from her poem,  "A New National Anthem". See more work by Ada Limón featured in our 2021 Get Lit Anthology.


"A New National Anthem"

The truth is, I’ve never cared for the National

Anthem. If you think about it, it’s not a good

song. Too high for most of us with “the rockets

red glare” and then there are the bombs.

(Always, always, there is war and bombs.)

Once, I sang it at homecoming and threw

even the tenacious high school band off key.

But the song didn’t mean anything, just a call

to the field, something to get through before

the pummeling of youth. And what of the stanzas

we never sing, the third that mentions “no refuge

could save the hireling and the slave”? Perhaps,

the truth is, every song of this country

has an unsung third stanza, something brutal

snaking underneath us as we blindly sing

the high notes with a beer sloshing in the stands

hoping our team wins. Don’t get me wrong, I do

like the flag, how it undulates in the wind

like water, elemental, and best when it’s humbled,

brought to its knees, clung to by someone who

has lost everything, when it’s not a weapon,

when it flickers, when it folds up so perfectly

you can keep it until it’s needed, until you can

love it again, until the song in your mouth feels

like sustenance, a song where the notes are sung

by even the ageless woods, the short-grass plains,

the Red River Gorge, the fistful of land left

unpoisoned, that song that’s our birthright,

that’s sung in silence when it’s too hard to go on,

that sounds like someone’s rough fingers weaving

into another’s, that sounds like a match being lit

in an endless cave, the song that says my bones

are your bones, and your bones are my bones,

and isn’t that enough?


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