How Are You Getting There?
When I first read this poem by Rita Simmonds titled “The Survivor,” it immediately resonated with me. It reminded me of how different we all are, but yet we are the same in so many ways. We all take our own path. But we don’t always know our destination. We all swim “within” ourselves, tied to our friends and family and our values and beliefs. That connection, that “rope” if you will, is what gives us strength, confidence, and courage in times of hardship. Those attachments help us to feel free to take risks and to live a beautiful and meaningful life. Those connections we make with each other get us wherever it is that we want to go. It keeps us afloat when we are dragged down by life’s challenges. Some of those “ropes” that we connect with are given to us, like our families. But sometimes we are tethered to the choices we make about our morality, our belief system, our friends, or daily decisions that accumulate over time to form who we are.
Our “rope” is what we rely on and guide us, even during the most difficult of times. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that gets us through the “tight spots” in life.
We all have ropes. More than one, for sure. And sometimes we have those cut involuntarily while other times we cut those ties ourselves. Some to seek independence upon the recognition that we no longer need to be connected to what’s on the other end of those ropes, and others are detached by the passing of a loved one or the awakening of a new season in our lives.
We know our days are numbered. We know the time will come when the very last rope is severed, and that can be a very scary thought. A thought so scary that the closer we approach that destiny the louder we may “wail.” But the life we are given is the only one we have. There is no expiration date given to any of us. We just know that it will be. And when it comes, we may recognize those ropes that have connected us to our spirituality or our friends and family… and whatever else that kept us afloat, will, in the end, help us realize how much they helped us live as they help us die.
My take on this beautiful poem is that regardless of how we transport our way through life, no matter how different our paths may be from any others, it is that rope that keeps us guided; the connections we have to others in innumerable ways. So keep your ties to whatever gives you the confidence to explore life like an astronaut in space. Cut the ones that hold you back and attach new one’s as you grow. You are going to live this life as a survivor thanks to those attachments.
You are going to live this life as a survivor thanks to those attachments. So kick and roll and stay afloat as long as you are allowed, and show gratitude always to the ties that gave you determination, fearlessness, bravery, endurance, and hope.
You are now free to move about the earth using whatever transport you choose and taking whatever path takes you to wherever it is that you are going.
~ Billy Soden
Within is where I swim
though fastened to a rope,
a chord of confidence,
that lets me kick and roll,
express my buoyant self
a tethered astronaut
though every day I’m squeezed
more fit for my transport.
I head the tight canal;
my lungs are braced to breathe;
the string is cut; I wail,
Emergent, aimed to be:
Spared wrongful aspiration of severed plans for me.
About Rita Simmonds: Rita Simmonds’ poems offer a soulful account of life in New York, not the mythical, magical destination of tourists, but the grim, gritty city eight million people call home. SOULS IN THE CITY bears witness to the lived experience of real New Yorkers, from the young couple falling in love in Goldberg’s Pizzeria to the married couple having their Friday night fight against the backdrop of R&B on their car radio, from Jesus the Beggar sitting on the bare pavement to the Wise Woman searching the snowy streets for the sleeping Christ Child, from the visionary beauty of the Verrazano Bridge by night to the bald Battery bereft of its Twin Towers. Simmonds’ city pulsates with pain and with beauty, the two becoming one as the poet weaves from the tiny particulars of city life the universal story of suffering and redemption, consolation and desolation, despair and (always) hope. Simmonds’ poems constitute glancings of grace, intimate glimpses of shimmer and shine that redeem the ugliness of urban life. Following in the footsteps of her poetic forbears Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, and Allen Ginsberg, Rita Simmonds has discovered the soul of her city and blesses her readers with her vision. –Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, author of MOVING HOUSE, SAINT SINATRA, and WAKING MY MOTHER