from The Black Maria

By Aracelis Girmay
Read by Moncho Ollin Alvarado

The body, bearing something ordinary as light                  Opens
as in a room somewhere the friend opens in poppy, in flame, burns & bears the child  —  out.

When I did it was the hours & hours of breaking. The bucking of
it all, the push & head

not moving, not an inch until,
when he flew from me, it was the night who came

flying through me with all its hair,
the immense terror of his face & noise.

I heard the stranger & my brain, without looking, vowed
a love-him vow. His struggling, merely, to be

split me down, with the axe, to two. How true,
the thinness of our hovering between the realms of Here, Not Here.

The fight, first, to open, then to breathe,
& then to close. Each of us entering the world

& entering the world like this.
Soft. Unlikely.          Then  —

the idiosyncratic minds & verbs.
    Beloveds, making your ways

to & away from us, always, across the centuries,
inside the vastness of the galaxy, how improbable it is that this    iteration

of you or you or me might come to be at all  —  Body of fear,
Body of laughing  —  & even last a second. This fact should make us fall all

to our knees with awe,
the beauty of it against these odds,

the stacks & stacks of near misses
& slimmest chances that birthed one ancestor into the next & next.

Profound, unspeakable cruelty who counters this, who does not see.

& so to tenderness I add my action.


*Selected for the 2023 ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival*

Directed by Matthew Thompson.

Aracelis Girmay, excerpted from The Black Maria. Copyright © 2016 by Aracelis Girmay. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., All rights reserved.