elegy (no. 2)


tulip farms

tulip farms, Norway 2018


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


for D.G., for A. A.


I hear gunshots in the sound of builders stapling wood
as i walk to class
on a street of dominoes
past a swing on a tree where a boy
called me beautiful
for the first time

(i did not see it coming)

i catch my jump before the embarrassment floods,
nod at the leathered albañil,
and remember last night’s phone call,

10:52PM EST

yes officer, i’m sure
nine or ten of them
a few minutes ago
14th avenue south
thank you.

In the atrium, books are dropped
on marble tile
in hollow rounds

i jolt! & turn!
lock wide eyes with a friend across the room
we share a sigh and chuckle like sheep
then hurry off to class.

(i do not have time to duck)

Some days I am stopped dead
by the tenderness of it all

how the peel of the clementine
pushes back against my thumb,

and the birdfeet lift off from branch and
spring forth into sky,

and the air tears petal from bud.

how the prisoner writes his poems and loves his neighbor
and returns to himself

                     the gentle give

we pass over last words
like fingers on Braille
repeating, repeating
eyes back in the reverent hollow

                     who were we to each other?

(i do not know)

Have you ever known the feeling
of holding another hand so long
you cannot tell where theirs ends
and yours begins?
This is a poem about that.

Your brother is on tv
he asks:

Did you see it coming?

Did you have time to duck?
Did you know?


I think this is the evidence
I think these are the fingerprints,
weeping calls out to belonging
and we cleave

the touches of the disappearing things.

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