poetry quarterly

10th anniversary


Arecelis Girmay


for Anthony

Like the first time I ever saw a cardinal,
brilliant flash of red against the gray
of the English room, your voice clapped
against the windows; signal: fireflies in the blood.

Whispered: the hieroglyphics of ancient Egyptians,
into your dream of subway cars threading language,
Technicolor, through the dark eyes of a vanishing city
your mother & uncles tended, like a garden, in their stories.

Little Arachne, little spider weaving realms, we hear you
filling your poems with mirrors & with tongues. & now
you’re filling your poems with guns. Blood.
Even when I tell you, Anthony, to write about the trees

you only remember what part of the world is an axe,
the murder the hands are capable of. I used to hope to run
from this. I used to worry, worry. Since
I met you I’ve been remembering the story of salt. Lot’s wife.

But you tell me something the story never did:
Look back at the burning city. Still, live.


Aracelis Girmay was born and raised in Southern California, with roots in Puerto Rico, Eritrea, & African America. She is the author of the collage-based picture book changing, changing and the poetry collections Kingdom Animalia, winner of the Isabella Gardner Poetry Prize and Teeth, for which she was awarded a GLCA New Writers Award. She was also a recent recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Girmay has taught youth writing workshops in schools and community centers for the past ten years. She is assistant professor of poetry writing at Hampshire College and also teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Drew University. Girmay is a Cave Canem Fellow and an Acentos board member.


Published in Volume 13, Number 1, Winter 2012.