Ars Poetica

Snail, or, to a House by Aracelis Girmay

Photo of Aracelis Girmay by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Snail, or, to a House

& if the blinds were drawn over the windows.
How does one hold
a whole live house
in a brain?

But there were bowls, & glass,
cereals in the pantry, cloves, folded

Back then
the snails gathered at the water hose, their feelers
prodding alien in the dusky afternoon, summer of wasps
with their mud cities
hanging down.

The pots caught drops & drops of rain
while gardens grew for morning, out in back.

Our house, that house & nation of beams
all crossed with wooden light above the people,
I loved you.

& it is only love to see you
obese in this new city
following me on the train & at the job.

Forgive me then, I did not even look twice,
or good & hard like in a mirror.
I could not even know
that we were leaving.

The story goes: it was the best thing
to leave you & the king,
to have start-
            all over with
only those things

we carried on
            our backs.

Poem reprinted from Teeth (Curbstone Press, 2007). All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

In celebration of Ars Poetica (2010), Rachel Eliza Griffiths' exhibition of photographs of Cave Canem faculty and fellows, the Poetry Society of America is presenting a selection of her portraits, each one accompanied by a poem from a Cave Canem poet she has captured on film.

As the poet Nikky Finney remarks "Because of her gifted, mindful pressing private eye on us, we discover what we could never completely see before, all around us, could never completely find before, right there in full shadow and slated sun, not even with our own two eyes: All of every bit of who we are."

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