A poem you are required to love
One of the amazing things about poetry–and why it’s good for us fiction writers, too–is how it can be about language. (Some people I know would say that all poetry ever should be “about” is, in fact, language.) As in, the point of a poem is to get you thinking about the precision of words–but also the bleeding boundaries between them. Usually this is by the stress put on each word via the poem’s structure, but sometimes even chatty, narrative poems can dig into language.
I got to see Aracelis Girmay read this poem a few years ago at the Indiana University Writers Conference. She’s an incredibly dynamic reader, and I wish I could give you a piece of that memory. You have to imagine a lot of quizzical expressions for the first half of the poem and an accelerating exuberance in the last bit.
Also: you are required to love the poem. Otherwise, I don’t want to hear from you.
For Estefani Lora, Third Grade, Who Made Me A Card
for Estefani Lora, PS 132, Washington Heights
Elephant on an orange line, underneath a yellow
6 green, vertical lines, with color all from
The first time I peel back the 5 squares of
unfold the crooked-crease fold of art class
I am in my living room.
It is June.
Inside of the card, there is one long word,
Loisfoeribari: The scientific, Latinate way
of saying hibiscus.
Loisfoeribari: A direction, as in: Are you
North? South? East? West? Loisfoeribari?
I try, over & over, to read the word out
What is this word?
I imagine using it in sentences like,
“Man, I have to go back to the house,
I forgot my Loisfoeribari.”
“There’s nothing better than rain, hot
open windows with music, & a tall glass
“How are we getting to Pittsburgh?
Should we drive or take the Loisfoeribari?”
I have lived 4 minutes with this word not
what it means.
It is the end of the year. I consider writing
Estefani Lora, a letter that goes:
To The BRILLIANT Estefani Lora!
Hola, querida, I hope that you are well.
just opened the card that
you made me, and it is beautiful.
really love the way you filled the sky with
birds. I believe that
you are chula,
chulita, and super fly! Yes, the card
I only have one question
for you. What does the word
I try the word again.
I try the word in Spanish.
& then, slowly,
Lo is fo e ri bari
Lo is fo eribari
love is for everybody
love is for every every body love
love love everybody love
everybody love love
is love everybody
everybody is love
love love for love
for love is everybody
love is forevery
love is forevery body
love love love for body
love body body is love
love is body every body is love
is every love
for every love is love
for love everybody love love
love love for everybody