the other side


This Morning the Small Bird Brought a Message from the Other Side
Aracelis Girmay

I would not call it fear
or the absence of fear
that I woke with, but worry,
this morning when I rose
up from the bed, & saw,
with clear seeing, for the first time,
that my chest was a small, red cup,
or bird in my hand, somehow
thirsty, its injury
made me panic for it
& I carried it with me
not knowing what to do
with its small speech, the way
it said your name.

I want to know what to do
with the dead things we carry.

If I were to wake
another morning,
maybe tomorrow,
with the red thing in my chest
or hand, what would
I do? Will I?

& the bird, would it attempt,
to cross over, would it come again
from the body’s realm
of animals & claws?
Would it risk its life
again to give me the message
of your name?
Would I trust my mouth
to resuscitate the messenger, small bird,
knowing I could kill it
with my teeth?



Aracelis Girmay
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.

Photo by Chris LDGK on Unsplash

clean eyes of children


La Boda del Mar y Arena
Aracelis Girmay

If we, for long enough, look,
with the clean eyes of children
at what this big house is saying,

we will start to understand
the language of our parents,
what the salt means.

I do not want to marry the wind
who leaves me things the color of gold,
whose tracks mark a serpent round the house.

More, more than parrots, more than gold,
I want my love to know my ear.
My love, I want to know your ear, & in this

instant that is as long as my life, I stand,
rigged with bones, beside the window:
beneath the purple dark of evening coming,

the sea & beach move into each other’s mouths
particle by particle; each one wanders
the big rooms of the other.

O, god, let us love
like they love.