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Aracelis Girmay

Aracelis Girmay

Aracelis Girmay is the author of Changing, Changing: Stories and Collages (George Braziller, Inc., 2005), and the two poetry collections Teeth (Curbstone Books, 2007) and Kingdom Animalia (BOA Editions, 2011). She serves on the faculty of Drew University's low-residency M.F.A. program and Hampshire College's School for Interdisciplinary Arts.

Kingdom Animalia

When I get the call about my brother,
I'm on a stopped train leaving town
& the news packs into me like freight,
though it's him on the other end
now, saying finefine

Forfeit my eyes, I want to turn away
from the blood on the floor of his house
& how it got there Monday,
but my one heart falls
like a sad, fat persimmon
dropped by the hand of the Turczyn's old tree.

I want to sleep. I do not want to sleep. See.

One day, not today, not now, we will be gone
from this earth where we know the gladiolas.
My brother, this noise,
some love [you] I loved
with all my brain, & breath,
will be gone; I've been told, today, to consider this
as I ride the long tracks out & dream so good

I see a plant in the window of the house
my brother shares with his love, their shoes. & there
he is, asleep in bed
with this same woman whose long skin
covers all of her bones, in a city called Oakland
& their dreams hang above them
a little like a chandelier
& their teeth flash in the night, oh, body.

Oh, body, be held now by whom you love.
Whole years will be spent, underneath these impossible stars,
when dirt's the only animal who will sleep with you
& touch you with
its mouth.


What to do with this knowledge
that our living is not guaranteed?

Perhaps one day you touch the young branch
of something beautiful. & it grows & grows
despite your birthdays & the death certificate,
& it one day shades the heads of something beautiful
or makes itself useful to the nest. Walk out
of your house, then, believing in this.
Nothing else matters.

All above us is the touching
of strangers & parrots,
some of them human,
some of them not human.

Listen to me. I am telling you
a true thing. This is the only kingdom.
The kingdom of touching;
the touches of the disappearing, things.

Ode To The Letter R

Little propeller
working between
the two fields of my a's,
making my name
a small boat
that leaves the port
of old San Juan
or Ponce,
with my grandfather,
Miguel, on a boat,
or in an airplane,
with a hundred or so
others, leaving the island
for work, cities,
in winters that would break
their bones, make old,
old men out of all of them,
factory workers, domino
players, little islands themselves
who would eat & be eaten by Chicago,
New York, the wars
they fought without
being able to vote for
the president. Little propeller
of their names: Francisco,
Reymundo, Arelis, Margarita,
HernĂ¡n, Roberto, Reina.
Little propeller of our names
delivering the cargo of blood
to the streets of Holyoke,
Brooklyn, New London,
Ojai, where the teacher says,
"Say your name?" sweetly,
& the beautiful propeller
working between
the two fields of my a's
& the teacher saying, "Oh!
You mean, 'Are-Raw-Sell-Lease.'"
Or "Robe-Bert-Toe"
or "Marred-Guh-Reetuh, like
the drink!" & the "r"
sounding like a balloon
deflating in the room, sad
& sagging. I am hurt.
It is as if I handed her
all my familiar trees & flowers,
every drawing of the family map
& boats & airplanes & cuatros
& coquis, & she used her English
to make an axe & tried to chop
them down. But, "r," little propeller
of my name, small & beautiful monster
changing shapes, you win. You fly
around the room, little bee, upsetting
the teacher & making all of Class-310A laugh,
you fly over the yard, in our mouths,
as our bodies make airplanes over the grass,
you, little propeller, are taking over the city,
you are the sound of cars racing, the sound
of bicycle spokes fitted with playing cards
to make it sound like we are going fast,
this is our ode to you, little "r," little
machine of our names, simple
as a heart, just working, always,
there when we go to the grocery,
there in the songs
we sing in our sleep.

Mrs. S

I have been put down like a horse
with a bad leg, no good for running
or pulling a cart of fruit. Brute,
this body of ridiculous, haphazard trees.
I was a bell once, I was
a teacher who raised my hand into the air
on the schoolyard & the children knew to stand in a line
though the sky was blue. My body
stacked itself up & up. Each
small part lifted another part high,
until my hand was taller than
my head. It was the tallest I'd ever be.
Now, beneath the grass & daisies:
my body is thin, a yellowed horizon. I am not asleep.
I am not asleep. The tumor in my breast,
whose nest? Beneath the dark & chewing dirt,
I miss the song of the purple plum, I want
one thousand days of sun.

Elegy in Gold

Earring, tooth,
dog breath, shoe,

mango fruit or pocket watch,
sunlight on my love's

elbow, sunlight
in the kettle's steam,

we walk in the rubble
of the African dream

brushing shipwreck from
our hair & dresses.

This is the country
of the gone-away: Harlem,

you wear the missing
like a golden chain.


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