Erik Maldonado. This dude truly said to me: “Oh, you better bring it for tomorrow. Image, structure, content, emotional response.”
Here’s a poem so raw, so beautifully structured, so real, and so simultaneously healing AND heartbreaking, I made it the introduction to my book. It may be my favorite, ever.
How many of you have been affected by your parents divorcing–either each other, or other people? Show of hands? How many of you let it affect you into your adult life? How many of you are afraid to be alone, afraid to do relationships right, afraid to recall both the bleak AND the beautiful of your childhood, and your adult loves and lives, as a result? How many of you live in the future or the past but never in the here and now? How many of you have considered the beauty of being here? Right this second? Despite everything. Because of everything.
Read Aracelis Girmay take on that emotional territory head-on, from the perspective of a child, from the perspective of a child grown, from the perspective of a healer telling you everything’s going to be all right. Read the power of these images: sparse, yet cutting, saying everything. Read them one after the other; watch them build up the emotions within you. And watch what happens before and after these lines: “& do not ever say again/ that you don’t know what it is to stay/ or to be stayed with, that you don’t get love/ & maybe couldn’t do it, not like that,/ when, in fact, that’s all you’ve ever known. Day/ after day, after day, here is your love, your love/ that has gone nowhere away from you.” That’s called a turn, folks. And it is masterful.
Here–is a word to the wise. Don’t skip one word. There is not one wasted word in this poem, no wasted movement. Take your time and absorb it all. And have a box of kleenex nearby.
Because I wanted to write a poem that would make me
push away from the table & say Damn,
& turn my face, even though I never say that word.
Say Look, this is your saddest thing. That’s all.
Your first & only saddest thing. This
is the hole that never closed. This
is your father’s face becoming small in the window.
Here is your first question to the gods.
Here is your day of the week: your house is the chicken
on the butcher-table: hacked. This
is your five year-old wishbone gut;
your heart is a wishbone, your blood is a wishbone. See,
here is your Friday shuffle up the freeway
in a borrowed, rust-colored Monte Carlo
because your mom’s brakes went out on Mother’s Day
& she hit a wall, & when you hear her tell the story
it makes you angry that she says Praise God
the kids weren’t with me & I was alone,
cause she was all alone. See,
you do not ever want your mother to be alone.
Here is your father, alone. Here is your mother,
alone. Here is the deep seat of the Monte Carlo. Here
are the refinery torch-lights through the window.
Here, your Saturday, your Sunday afternoon.
Here is the laundromat; lint-screen in your hand.
Here are the laundry-cart’s squeaky wheels,
your 25-cent grocery-store book. Here
is the swapmeet. Here are your batteries
for your mechanical dog. Here is your father
& the bag of goldfish, & the muted leaves
of goldfish flakes. Here is your hand.
Here is the smell of dirt. Here are your father’s soccer games.
The blue & yellow oil drums for goal posts. Here
is the sound of the kick; so, so high of the spinning ball
across the whole Los Angeles sky. Here is your father
running. Here is your proud heart.
Here is your ride home; walk up to the third floor
past the small, small man’s door with the peephole
you put your eye to, maybe twice. Here
is the clock & its thin, red thermometer line. Here
is Helen Keller. Here is early, ugly dinner. Here
are your clothes back in the bags. Here is the hole
where your mother was. Here
is your brother connecting yellow strips
of his Hot Rod track. Here is Minnie Riperton.
Here is Jacques Cousteau. Here is your 5 o’clock
& saddest show. Here is your Dad’s
We should go. Here are the sharks & fins & whales.
Here is your saddest blue.
Here is Jacques Cousteau’s white hair.
Here is the knot like a submarine in your small, red throat.
Here is your I am so worried for Jacques Cousteau.
Here is the buckle of the seat belt,
your face to the cold, cold window. Here is your face.
Here is the submarine again, breaking your voice-box.
Here are your eyes. Here are your eyes like tanks
filling with water. Here is your way home.
Here is your father trying to tell jokes. Here is your brother
in the backseat, sounding like he is drowning.
Here is his face pressed to the window.
Here is his wet face. Here is the near-quiet of the car.
Here is your stomach filled up with ocean.
Here is your Jurassic sadness. That’s all.
Here are your small lavender feet. Here is your hand
becoming a windshield wiper across your small face.
Here is your father saying Don’t cry, haneyay,
why are you crying? Here is you saying
I am so worried for Jacques Cousteau.
I do not want him to get eaten.
Here is the engine whirring. Here
are your tears eating the day
like silkworms eating mulberry leaves
in the tank near your classroom desk.
Here is your sadness that your dad will be alone.
You do not want him to get eaten.
Here are your birds. Here is your heart, a red bicycle
without a kickstand, in the rain. Here
is your plain & famous pain. Here are blue skies
you would have traded. Flowers. Here
are one thousand of your days
you would’ve given back for your parents to stay with it,
little, little girl, put them down, all their hawks
& quiet weeds, look those long days in the eyes,
see their sleepless flash & royal,
the hard, hard suffocating days, the days you danced in
wildly, even in your sleep. Here. & do not ever say again
that you don’t know what it is to stay
or to be stayed with, that you don’t get love
& maybe couldn’t do it, not like that,
when, in fact, that’s all you’ve ever known. Day
after day, after day, here is your love, your love
that has gone nowhere away from you. Here
is a blue sky. Here is the smell of grass on your fingers.
Here is a flower. A road, a shoreline. Here are kites
rising. Here is breath. Here are your saints,
your father’s heart, here is love to believe in,
your mother’s cheek. Here is an airplane’s lights,
here is a new, white hook of moon,
a tiger’s tooth. Here is your mother’s perfume.
Here is the ocean, your brother’s shoes.
Here is an electric, church organ & a flock of birds
outside the window doing their glide & switch, glide
& switch, like flags or fish or two-eyed angels.
Here is the parking lot where Lucinda slaps hands
with bow-legged Small. Here is old Mother Trottie
whose foot grew back in church, don’t shake
your head, you saw it. Here is the miracle.
Here are your dresses & blue jeans. Here are your days,
days, days, their black & blue. Here are your bruises,
your back & forth. Here is the crow that circles your heart.
Here are your seesaw years. Here
are all the things you prayed for. Where do they go?
Here is the yellow, yellow day. Here is the black,
black night. Here is breath. Here is a love
you have not had to leave, not yet,
not yesterday, not this morning, who knows,
oh, terrible & beautiful & giant,
hibiscus here, is a fruit tree, a day,
a god who looks you in the face
despite your fifty heartbreaks, now,
Here is a god to make you sing & pray to,
oh, good & wrecked & here & here & here.