How dare I move into the dark space of your body

“The brutal Middle Passage across the Atlantic is one of the most painful chapters in the history of forced African American migration. Thus Aracelis Girmay’s new poetry collection, The Black Maria—a haunting, blistering, vital examination of the African diaspora from 15th-century slave ships to Neil deGrasse Tyson—is a book of memories and seas. […] Some memories are her own. Others are the memories of a people. The title of the collection—taken from the plural of the Latin wordmare, meaning “sea,”—was used by early astronomers to refer to the dark, flat surfaces of the moon they believed were filled with water, a landscape as forbidding and alien as the Atlantic was during the five centuries of the West African slave trade, and as the Mediterranean and other seas are today for migrants and refugees.”  –Sanya Noel in the Chicago Review of Books

Only yesterday did I check out from the library this incredible poetic undertaking by Aracelis Girmay (1977-), and I am already floored.

aracelis-girmay-processed

“to the sea”

You who cannot hear or cannot know
the terrible intricacies of our species, our minds,
the extent to which we have done
what we have done, & yet the depth to which
we have loved
what we have
loved —

the hillside
at dawn, dark eyes
outlined with the dark
sentences of  kohl,
the fūl we shared
beneath the lime tree at the general’s house
after visiting Goitom in prison for trying to leave
the country (the first time),
the apricot color of camels racing
on the floor of  the world
as the fires blazed in celebration of  Independence.

How dare I move into the dark space of  your body
carrying my dreams, without an invitation, my dreams
wandering in ellipses, pet goats or chickens
devouring your yard & shirts.

Sea, my oblivious afterworld,
grant us entry, please, when we knock,
but do not keep us there, deliver
our flowers & himbasha bread.
Though we can’t imagine, now, what
our dead might need,
& above all can’t imagine it is over
& that they are, in fact, askless, are
needless, in fact, still hold somewhere
the smell of coffee smoking
in the house, please,
the memory of joy
fluttering like a curtain in an open window
somewhere inside the brain’s secret luster
where a woman, hands red with henna,
beats the carpet clean with the stick of a broom
& the children, in the distance, choose stones
for the competition of stones, & the summer
wears a crown of  beles in her green hair & the tigadelti’s
white teeth & the beautiful bones of Massawa,
the gaping eyes & mouths of its arches
worn clean by the sea, your breath & your salt.
                      Please, you,
being water too,
find a way into the air & then
the river & the spring
so that your waters can wash the elders,
with the medicine of the dreaming of their children,
cold & clean.

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