Poem: Joint Custody – The New York Instances

I can always rely on an Ada Limón poem to give me hope, but Limón’s poems don’t give us the kind of facile Hallmark hope; rather, her hope is hard-earned, even laced with grief or unhappiness. This 14-line pseudo-sonnet roughly follows the structure of a Petrarch sonnet with its octave (first eight lines) stating a tension and the sestet (final six lines) including a volta (or turn). Here, the tension was a child’s divided life due to a parent’s divorce, and the volta begins with, “But let me say…” which prefaces the final beautiful five lines. Limón is a master at making a simple idea (that of hindsight, seeing the bright side of things) askew. “And so I have/two brains now,” she writes. “Two entirely different brains.” Limón gives us two brains in her poems too, revealing new ways to view the world. Selected by Victoria Chang

By Ada Limon

Why did I never see it for what it was:
abundance. Two families, two different
kitchen tables, two sets of rules, two
creeks, two highways, two stepparents
with their fish tanks or eight tracks or
cigarette smoke or expertise in recipes or
reading skills. I cannot reverse it, the record
scratched and stopping to that original
chaotic track. But let me say, I was taken
back and forth on Sundays and it was not easy
but I was loved each place. And so I have
two brains now. Two entirely different brains.
The one that always misses where I’m not,
the one that is so relieved to finally be home.

Victoria Chang is a poet whose fifth book of poems, “Obit” (Copper Canyon Press, 2020), was named a New York Times Notable Book and a Time Must-Read. Her book of nonfiction, “Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence and Grief,” was published by Milkweed Editions in 2021. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches in Antioch University’s MFA program. Ada Limon is an American poet whose latest book is “The Hurting Kind” (Milkweed Editions, 2022), from which this poem is taken. Her previous book, “The Carrying” (2018), won the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry.

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