After reading Kingdom Animalia and Teeth a few years ago, and then meeting Aracelis Girmay at a reading hosted by the Madwomen in the Attic here in Pittsburgh, I have been solidly in the Aracelis Girmay fan club. I love her work. But hearing her read her poems in person and talk about her craft made me realize I also admire the kind of poet and person she is. There was something luminous about her — that word has been co-opted by fashion magazines — but it’s true. I realize I only know her through her poems and her reading and from a five minute conversation we had, but still. Maybe by luminous — what I mean is real. I think she’s after something real and true — and there are many ways to do that. But I love her particular way of pursuing what is true with language and image.
I picked the poem “Elegy” to share because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about mortality and how “our living is not guaranteed.” It was hard for me to pick one Girmay poem. There are so many others that deserve to be read — my favorites include, “For Estefani Lora, Third Grade, Who Made Me a Card,” “To Waste My Hands,” “For Patrick Rosal Who Wore a Dress & Said,” and “Self-Portrait as the Snail.” You should pick up her books and see for yourself.
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.
–Aracelis Girmay, from Kingdom Animalia, 2011, BOA Editions.