Aracelis Girmay


Because I wanted to write a poem that would make me

push away from the table & say Damn,

& turn my face, even though I never say that word.

Say Look, this is your saddest thing. That’s all.

Your first & only saddest thing. This

is the hole that never closed. This

is your father’s face becoming small in the window.

Here is your first question to the gods.

Here is your day of the week: your house is the chicken

on the butcher-table: hacked. This

is your five year-old wishbone gut;

your heart is a wishbone, your blood is a wishbone. See,

here is your Friday shuffle up the freeway

in a borrowed, rust-colored Monte Carlo

because your mom’s brakes went out on Mother’s Day

& she hit a wall, & when you hear her tell the story

it makes you angry that she says Praise God

the kids weren’t with me & I was alone,

cause she was all alone. See,

you do not ever want your mother to be alone.


Here is your father, alone. Here is your mother,

alone. Here is the deep seat of the Monte Carlo. Here

are the refinery torch-lights through the window.

Here, your Saturday, your Sunday afternoon.

Here is the laundromat; lint-screen in your hand.

Here are the laundry-cart’s squeaky wheels,

your 25-cent grocery-store book. Here

is the swapmeet. Here are your batteries

for your mechanical dog. Here is your father

& the bag of goldfish, & the muted leaves

of goldfish flakes. Here is your hand.

Here is the smell of dirt. Here are your father’s soccer games.

The blue & yellow oil drums for goal posts. Here

is the sound of the kick; so, so high of the spinning ball

across the whole Los Angeles sky. Here is your father

running. Here is your proud heart.


Here is your ride home; walk up to the third floor

past the small, small man’s door with the peephole

you put your eye to, maybe twice. Here

is the clock & its thin, red thermometer line. Here

is Helen Keller. Here is early, ugly dinner. Here

are your clothes back in the bags. Here is the hole

where your mother was. Here

is your brother connecting yellow strips

of his Hot Rod track. Here is Minnie Riperton.

Here is Jacques Cousteau. Here is your 5 o’clock

& saddest show. Here is your Dad’s

We should go. Here are the sharks & fins & whales.

Here is your saddest blue.

Here is Jacques Cousteau’s white hair.

Here is the knot like a submarine in your small, red throat.

Here is your I am so worried for Jacques Cousteau.

Here is the buckle of the seat belt,

your face to the cold, cold window. Here is your face.

Here is the submarine again, breaking your voice-box.

Here are your eyes. Here are your eyes like tanks

filling with water. Here is your way home.

Here is your father trying to tell jokes. Here is your brother

in the backseat, sounding like he is drowning.

Here is his face pressed to the window.

Here is his wet face. Here is the near-quiet of the car.

Here is your stomach filled up with ocean.

Here is your Jurassic sadness. That’s all.

Here are your small lavender feet. Here is your hand

becoming a windshield wiper across your small face.

Here is your father saying Don’t cry, haneyay,

why are you crying? Here is you saying

I am so worried for Jacques Cousteau.

I do not want him to get eaten.

Here is the engine whirring. Here

are your tears eating the day

like silkworms eating mulberry leaves

in the tank near your classroom desk.

Here is your sadness that your dad will be alone.

You do not want him to get eaten.

Here are your birds. Here is your heart, a red bicycle

without a kickstand, in the rain. Here

is your plain & famous pain. Here are blue skies

you would have traded. Flowers. Here

are one thousand of your days

you would’ve given back for your parents to stay with it,

little, little girl, put them down, all their hawks

& quiet weeds, look those long days in the eyes,

see their sleepless flash & royal,

the hard, hard suffocating days, the days you danced in

wildly, even in your sleep. Here. & do not ever say again

that you don’t know what it is to stay

or to be stayed with, that you don’t get love

& maybe couldn’t do it, not like that,

when, in fact, that’s all you’ve ever known. Day

after day, after day, here is your love, your love

that has gone nowhere away from you. Here

is a blue sky. Here is the smell of grass on your fingers.

Here is a flower. A road, a shoreline. Here are kites

rising. Here is breath. Here are your saints,

your father’s heart, here is love to believe in,

your mother’s cheek. Here is an airplane’s lights,

here is a new, white hook of moon,

a tiger’s tooth. Here is your mother’s perfume.

Here is the ocean, your brother’s shoes.

Here is an electric, church organ & a flock of birds

outside the window doing their glide & switch, glide

& switch, like flags or fish or two-eyed angels.

Here is the parking lot where Lucinda slaps hands

with bow-legged Small. Here is old Mother Trottie

whose foot grew back in church, don’t shake

your head, you saw it. Here is the miracle.

Here are your dresses & blue jeans. Here are your days,

days, days, their black & blue. Here are your bruises,

your back & forth. Here is the crow that circles your heart.

Here are your seesaw years. Here

are all the things you prayed for. Where do they go?

Here is the yellow, yellow day. Here is the black,

black night. Here is breath. Here is a love

you have not had to leave, not yet,

not yesterday, not this morning, who knows,

oh, terrible & beautiful & giant,

hibiscus here, is a fruit tree, a day,

a god who looks you in the face

despite your fifty heartbreaks, now,

Here is a god to make you sing & pray to,

oh, good & wrecked & here & here & here.



“Here” is from Teeth (Curbstone Press, 2007).