All above us is the touching of strangers & parrots

Illustration by Kristina Closs

This gorgeous poem by Aracelis Girmay was published a decade ago and yet feels so eerily right for this time of immense loss of life and of touching this world full of fleeting things.

“Elegy”

What to do with this knowledge
that our living is not guaranteed?

Perhaps one day you touch the young branch
of something beautiful. & it grows & grows
despite your birthdays & the death certificate,
& it one day shades the heads of something beautiful
or makes itself useful to the nest. Walk out
of your house, then, believing in this.
Nothing else matters.

All above us is the touching
of strangers & parrots,
some of them human,
some of them not human.

Listen to me. I am telling you
a true thing. This is the only kingdom.
The kingdom of touching;
the touches of the disappearing, things.

_

From Kingdom Animalia

what planet in the widow’s hand?

Today I give you just one of the searing poems from The Silence that Remains by Palestinian poet, novelist, and journalist Ghassan Zaqtan (1954-), translated by Palestinian-American poet and physician Fady Joudah (1971-).

ghassanres

“That Life”

I’m going to see how they died
I’m going toward that wreckage
going to see them there
tranquil on the hill of engagement

Dear Wednesday’s narcissus, what time is it
what death is it
what planet in the widow’s hand
five or three?

Her dress was blooming
              we were
neglected flowers on her dress

Dear women’s thresholds, how much is a lifetime
what time is a river
how many daggers in the blood
of the whirling storm
five or three?

We let the city play
and rolled our widespread shrouds shut

I’m going to see how they died
I’m going toward that wreckage
going to see their death
hills of the north
wind-rise of the south
I’m going to call them by their names

There’s a room inside myself I’ve never seen

I’m alway so grateful for poetry recommendations–and one of the best I got last year was to read¬†Laura Kasischke (thanks, Anthony!). I’m still digesting her newest poetry collection, Infinitesimals, which is threaded with grief and perfectly haunting images.

081217_laura_kasischke

“Room”

There’s a room inside myself
I’ve never seen.
There’s

a bed there, and
on a nightstand, photographs
in frames. But

whose faces?

A violet
vase on a vanity: I’ve

held it in my hands. Tearful
apology
. And

under my bed
in narrow boxes?
And if I open the desk
drawer, or
the dresser?

Well, just
the usual soft
folded things.
Silky
rectangles.
Knitted
squares.
A glove.
A stocking.

A loss, eternally.
And a window
(I’m sure of this)
that looks
out onto the green.
An apple tree.

And, beneath the tree, my
grandmother
in a housedress
in a lounge chair, sipping
a cool drink, not

even wondering
where she went or
where,
all these years,
she’s been.