Some time ago, we published a PDF Toolkit of Questions to Ask Before Giving Up. Perhaps as good or better is poet Ada Limón‘s poem “Instructions on Not Giving Up”, which provides powerful instruction of another sort. A friend read it to us this morning and we were instantly heartened.

(If you’d like it READ to you, hear Limón herself read it here, perfectly. And then call someone up and read it to them.)


More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out

of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s

almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving

their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate

sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees

that really gets to me. When all the shock of white

and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave

the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,

the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin

growing over whatever winter did to us, a return

to the strange idea of continuous living despite

the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,

I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf

unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.



Dcrjsr/Widimedia Commons

…it’s the greening of the trees that really gets to me…

…a return to the strange idea of continuous living despite the mess of us, the hurt, the empty.

Fine then, I’ll take it,
the tree seems to say,
a new slick leaf 
unfurling like a fist to an open palm.

I’ll take it all.



Sally Schneider


Limón writes frequently for the New Yorker (more poems here ) and has published several books of poetry; her latest, Bright Dead Things, was a Finalist for the National Book Award.


With thanks to David Saltman.

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2 replies on “Instructions on Not Giving Up (Ada Limón)

  1. Thank you! I really needed this today. I will pay it forward.

  2. Thank you for this. Sometimes giving up seems so overwhelmingly OK. Well….. thank you.

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