Aracelis Girmay

They Tell Me You Are Gone

All day long, the birds go Phebus! Phebus!

& the geese, if I didn’t know better,

would sound like donkeys. & they do.

& somewhere, a girl loves a boy with her dark hand,

& we come upon them in the park

where the walkway is so skinny

that my dress-hem catches fire

when we pass. & just like that,

my mother chopping onions far away

sees a volcano at the kitchen table

& puts the knife down to call,

& the telephone rings, but I am out

without it, & rings, & the day goes on howling

through the branches, over the giant park-green

going up & down. & the boy losing his mind.


I am dying, or you. & the crow-headed women

running in the distance

from some devil or dog, I think,

over such grass in my eye.


& one by one, or two at a time,

I watch something invisible snatch them up

by the black tumbleweed of their hair. & this

would be a myth, except it’s not.


& to think, just this morning, I was one of them

walking out of my house

into the day’s shrike brain.

& I’d be telling you story, except I’m not, you see,


all day long, someone is yanked

up into the sky or down into the mulch

or in his bed or trampled or headfirst,

face down, with or without the news.

& all day long people going in & out

of each other, their houses, the supermarket.

Dying & coming & shopping for tomatoes

maybe at the same time, say. & to think,

people burn like this, simultaneously, in kitchens & beds,

the heady dusk of the public park. Oh, hair,

was the sky always so blue

as it is now, taking the jet-black & sequoia of our girls?

Every thing taking another thing home to bed

for one night or two nights

or, not even a night, or 600 days,

which is to say, Lifeguard, drop the whistle.

Mother, turn out the lights on your front-porch—

one day your girl will not come back. They tell me

you are gone, & all day long, the day goes on

bucking logic into the hills. How the geese dress the dusk

in donkey-call. How the sixteen stars keep time

as our bodies, in their different sleeps, are rearranged,

& we wake up wearing each other’s clothes:

the spider wears my mouth like a room,

& the good black ant carries your small material,

some fleck of sugar hidden

in the silver backroom of your tooth, off

like a peony or a bone, & there you go.


                              All day long, the wind wears Phebus’ shoes.

                              I want to live longer knowing this.