The Black Maria by Aracelis Girmay

Aracelis Girmay reads two poems from her latest poetry collection, The Black Maria, published in April by BOA Editions.


from prayer & letter to the dead

While the room is still
dry here,

while the page is still
white, still here,

more shore than sea, more still
than alive, while the air is now

touching the dark & funny fruit of
your eyebrows where it is quiet enough

for me to hear the small sighing
of your shoes lift up into

the old & broken boat,
while the small hands of water

wave, each one waving
its blue handkerchief, then

the gentle flutter of luck
& tears. We all know

what happens next. Do not go.
But if you must,

risking what you will, then,
in a language that is my first

but nor your first, & with what I know
& do not know, I will try to build

a shore for you here, a landing place, here
where the paper dreams

that you will last. Our parents
& our grandparents taught

us: in the school of dreaming,
the discipline of dreaming.

It is my work: to revise & revise,
even as you are filling my eyes, now,

& you are filling the sea (Courages).
& the fishermen drop their veils

into your grave.


from to the sea

I love the azucenas, so bring them to you,
& beles in August from Alem's hands,
Alem who is the best seller.

I love the rain when it is hot & raining.
& the color of beets, the color of shiro
in the kitchen jar, the sound of bees,

the word "werKi" & the word "shukor"
& the slow, high flight of the soccer ball
& the water-sound of my love's guitar.

There is also your face that I love.
Your face, a red & gorgeous word
in a long sentence of a long story.

& I love the large silence of the baobab tree,
the quiet of the desert quiet,
the red & laughing mouths of

the bougainvilla. I love
the pepper & the hay,
the nervous hunger of

the fat squirrel with his hand
on his heart, so bring them to you.
& I bring, to you, my father, or yours,

someone you loved, anyway, who was older,
saying, over the water, Ambessa, Ambessa,
as if  you could hear him, as if it were you.




Excerpted from The Black Maria by Aracelis Girmay. Copyright  ©  2016 by Aracelis Girmay. Excerpted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.