Surfing through SoundCloud this morning, suddenly we found ourselves listening to poet Ada Limón reading her extraordinary poem “Instructions on Not Giving Up”. It provides a powerful reminder that we sorely need.

 Hear Limón herself read it here, perfectly. 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.


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2 replies on “Instruction for Not Giving Up (Ada Limón)

  1. Thank you for this – and for the photo of the tree growing out of the rocks. It is SO difficult not to feel swamped by sorrow at what is happening to SO many people around the world… We are actively engaged in getting out the vote for progressive candidates in our area and that activity helps but truly, I don’t know whether to dread Election night or welcome it.

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