A poem you are required to love

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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

by Aracelis Girmay

for Estefani Lora, PS 132, Washington Heights


*

Elephant on an orange line, underneath a yellow

circle

meaning sun.

6 green, vertical lines, with color all from

the top

meaning flowers.

*

The first time I peel back the 5 squares of

Scotch tape,

unfold the crooked-crease fold of art class

paper,

I am in my living room.

It is June.

Inside of the card, there is one long word,

& then

Estefani’s name:

Loisfoeribari

Estefani Lora

*

Loisfoeribari?

*

Loisfoeribari: The scientific, Latinate way

of saying hibiscus.

*

Loisfoeribari: A direction, as in: Are you

going

North? South? East? West? Loisfoeribari?

*

I try, over & over, to read the word out

loud.

Loisfoeribari. LoISFOeribari.

LoiSFOEribari. LoisFOERibARI.

*

What is this word?

I imagine using it in sentences like,

“Man, I have to go back to the house,

I forgot my Loisfoeribari.”

or

“There’s nothing better than rain, hot

rain,

open windows with music, & a tall glass

of Loisfoeribari.”

or

“How are we getting to Pittsburgh?

Should we drive or take the Loisfoeribari?”

*

I have lived 4 minutes with this word not

knowing

what it means.

*

It is the end of the year. I consider writing

my student,

Estefani Lora, a letter that goes:

To The BRILLIANT Estefani Lora!

Hola, querida, I hope that you are well.

I’ve

just opened the card that

you made me, and it is beautiful.

I

really love the way you filled the sky with

birds. I believe that

you are chula,

chulita, and super fly! Yes, the card

is beautiful.

I only have one question

for you. What does the word

‘Loisfoeribari’

mean?

*

I try the word again.

Loisfoeribari.

Loisfoeribari.

Loisfoeribari.

*

I try the word in Spanish.

Loisfoeribari

Lo-ees-fo-eh-dee-bah-dee

Lo-ees-fo-eh-dee-bah-dee

& 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 everybody

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

loveisforeverybody

Aracelis Girmay is a poet and writing teacher living in New York City, This poem is from TEETH, Curbstone Press (www.curbstone.org). 

 

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