Women We Celebrate: Aracelis Girmay

Born and raised in Santa Ana, California, poet Aracelis Girmay earned a BA at Connecticut College and an MFA from New York University. Her poems trace the connections of transformation and loss across cities and bodies. She is now a highly revered and deeply loved professor at our school, Hampshire College.

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“I have been thinking of, for the past year or so, constellations. I have been asking myself, What does the constellation have in common with the body? How is the body a constellation? When the piece of a body is left (or a home is left) then the body begins being a constellation: one piece is there! one piece is there! If I leave my hair in the comb in my mother’s house & walk out the door to go to the airport, then all of a sudden the body is everything between me & that lost piece. The body is made up, then, of roads & crickets & azucena & mud. How large we are. How ramshackle, how brilliant, how haphazardly & strangely rendered we are. Gloriously, fantastically mixed & monstered. I have been asking myself to be more attentive & porous–to pay attention to the way every inch of me is animal, every inch of me is earth. I am trying to remember this. Where is my cloud? Where is my sea? What do the lungs hunt? What does the eye have in common with the teeth?”

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“FOR ESTEFANI LORA, THIRD GRADE, WHO MADE ME A CARD
for Estefani Lora, PS 132, Washington Heights
*
Elephant on an orange line, underneath a yellow circle
meaning sun.
6 green, vertical lines, with color all from the top
meaning flowers.
*
The first time I peel back the 5 squares of Scotch tape,
unfold the crooked-crease fold of art class paper,
I am in my living room.

It is June.
Inside of the card, there is one long word, & then
Estefani?s name:

Loisfoeribari

Estefani Lora
*

Loisfoeribari?

*
Loisfoeribari: The scientific, Latinate way of saying hibiscus.

*
Loisforeribari: A direction, as in: Are you going
North? South? East? West? Loisfoeribari?

*
I try, over & over, to read the word out loud.
Loisfoeribari. LoISFOeribari.
LoiSFOEribari. LoisFOERibARI.

*
What is this word?

I imagine using it in sentences like,

?Man, I have to go back to the house,
I forgot my Loisfoeribari.?

or

?There?s nothing better than rain, hot rain,
open windows with music, & a tall glass
of Loisfoeribari.?

or

?How are we getting to Pittsburgh?
Should we drive or take the Loisfoeribari??

*
I have lived 4 minutes with this word not knowing
what it means.

*
It is the end of the year. I consider writing my student,
Estefani Lora, a letter that goes:

To The BRILLIANT Estefani Lora!

Hola, querida, I hope that you are well. I?ve just opened the card that you made me, and it is beautiful. I really love the way you filled the sky with birds. I believe that you are chula, chulita, and super fly! Yes, the card is beautiful. I only have one question for you. What does the word ?Loisfoeribari? mean?

*
I try the word again.
Loisfoeribari.
Loisfoeribari.
Loisfoeribari.

*
I try the word in Spanish.
Loisfoeribari
Lo-ees-fo-eh-dee-bah-dee
Lo-ees-fo-eh-dee-bah-dee

& then, slowly,

Lo is fo e ri bari
Lo is fo eribari

*
love is for everybody
love is for every every body love
love love everybody love
everybody love love
is love everybody
everybody is love
love love for love
for everybody
for love is everybody
love is forevery
love is forevery body
love love love for body
love body body is love
love is body every body is love
is every love
for every love is love
for love everybody love love
love love for everybody
loveisforeverybody”

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