How to Love

 My sons don’t know a world without 9/11. There will soon be adults who have only existed in a post-9/11 world. What a hard place they’ve arrived in. In an interview (read it, she’s so lovely and it shines and shines in this interview) for a series with the Library of Congress, Aracelis Girmay says,

I am amazed by how much people can survive, endure—and how they can go on living, laughing. After thorough devastation, indescribable loss, people’s hearts still beat. People can, still, live. This is perplexing, bewildering news to me. Defies all sense and gravity to me. And yet.

You Are Who I Love

By Aracelis Girmay

You, selling roses out of a silver grocery cart

You, in the park, feeding the pigeons
You cheering for the bees

You with cats in your voice in the morning, feeding cats

You protecting the river   You are who I love
delivering babies, nursing the sick

You with henna on your feet and a gold star in your nose

You taking your medicine, reading the magazines

You looking into the faces of young people as they pass, smiling and saying, Alright! which, they know it, means I see you, Family. I love you. Keep on.

You dancing in the kitchen, on the sidewalk, in the subway waiting for the train because Stevie Wonder, Héctor Lavoe, La Lupe

You stirring the pot of beans, you, washing your father’s feet

You are who I love, you
reciting Darwish, then June

Feeding your heart, teaching your parents how to do The Dougie, counting to 10, reading your patients’ charts

You are who I love, changing policies, standing in line for water, stocking the food pantries, making a meal

You are who I love, writing letters, calling the senators, you who, with the seconds of your body (with your time here), arrive on buses, on trains, in cars, by foot to stand in the January streets against the cool and brutal offices, saying: YOUR CRUELTY DOES NOT SPEAK FOR ME

You are who I love, you struggling to see

You struggling to love or find a question

You better than me, you kinder and so blistering with anger, you are who I love, standing in the wind, salvaging the umbrellas, graduating from school, wearing holes in your shoes

You are who I love
weeping or touching the faces of the weeping

You, Violeta Parra, grateful for the alphabet, for sound, singing toward us in the dream

You carrying your brother home
You noticing the butterflies

Sharing your water, sharing your potatoes and greens

You who did and did not survive
You who cleaned the kitchens
You who built the railroad tracks and roads
You who replanted the trees, listening to the work of squirrels and birds, you are who I love
You whose blood was taken, whose hands and lives were taken, with or without your saying
Yes, I mean to give. You are who I love.

You who the borders crossed
You whose fires
You decent with rage, so in love with the earth
You writing poems alongside children

You cactus, water, sparrow, crow      You, my elder
You are who I love,
summoning the courage, making the cobbler,

getting the blood drawn, sharing the difficult news, you always planting the marigolds, learning to walk wherever you are, learning to read wherever you are, you baking the bread, you come to me in dreams, you kissing the faces of your dead wherever you are, speaking to your children in your mother’s languages, tootsing the birds

You are who I love, behind the library desk, leaving who might kill you, crying with the love songs, polishing your shoes, lighting the candles, getting through the first day despite the whisperers sniping fail fail fail

You are who I love, you who beat and did not beat the odds, you who knows that any good thing you have is the result of someone else’s sacrifice, work, you who fights for reparations

You are who I love, you who stands at the courthouse with the sign that reads NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE

You are who I love, singing Leonard Cohen to the snow, you with glitter on your face, wearing a kilt and violet lipstick

You are who I love, sighing in your sleep

You, playing drums in the procession, you feeding the chickens and humming as you hem the skirt, you sharpening the pencil, you writing the poem about the loneliness of the astronaut

You wanting to listen, you trying to be so still

You are who I love, mothering the dogs, standing with horses

You in brightness and in darkness, throwing your head back as you laugh, kissing your hand

You carrying the berbere from the mill, and the jug of oil pressed from the olives of the trees you belong to

You studying stars, you are who I love
braiding your child’s hair

You are who I love, crossing the desert and trying to cross the desert

You are who I love, working the shifts to buy books, rice, tomatoes,

bathing your children as you listen to the lecture, heating the kitchen with the oven, up early, up late

You are who I love, learning English, learning Spanish, drawing flowers on your hand with a ballpoint pen, taking the bus home

You are who I love, speaking plainly about your pain, sucking your teeth at the airport terminal television every time the politicians say something that offends your sense of decency, of thought, which is often

You are who I love, throwing your hands up in agony or disbelief, shaking your head, arguing back, out loud or inside of yourself, holding close your incredulity which, yes, too, I love    I love

your working heart, how each of its gestures, tiny or big, stand beside my own agony, building a forest there

How “Fuck you” becomes a love song

You are who I love, carrying the signs, packing the lunches, with the rain on your face

You at the edges and shores, in the rooms of quiet, in the rooms of shouting, in the airport terminal, at the bus depot saying “No!” and each of us looking out from the gorgeous unlikelihood of our lives at all, finding ourselves here, witnesses to each other’s tenderness, which, this moment, is fury, is rage, which, this moment, is another way of saying: You are who I love   You are who I love  You and you and you are who

from Split This Rock’s Poetry Database

Your prompt this week is to write down a list of actions you’ve noticed are lovable. Can’t think of any? Look around for reasons to love people through the struggle.

Here’s a start from me (which took me away someplace to a google doc scratchpad poem graveyard/poem patch)

You, with your head in your mother’s lap tying the bag and taking out the trash, struggling to read, slowly making your way down the sidewalk in the sun,


waiting: in line, in the elevator, at the bus stop, for your luck to change
You, laughing as you count out change
and remembering the names of all the dogs
catching a ball like you plucked it from the air
and handing it to the child in the stands
You, balancing plates on a tray
with your
own hunger and grief, listening carefully remembering
orders.

On an unrelated and essential note, this article by Melissa Febos in Catapult has changed the framing of my task list. Fuck it. I know what I want to be in the world. I should allocate my time accordingly. You might also. 

4 thoughts on “How to Love

  1. Michelle Van Court

    You, having and chasing after dreams despite the doubters (including yourself) saying you can’t or shouldn’t
    You, as a child reaching out to your mother in a moment of tender need when the world is too heavy for her
    You, giving out all your lunch when those around you need it more and pretending you don’t care
    You, tying your teammate’s shoes when she can’t during a game when no one else would or even noticed
    You, being indignant and sad at the hurt and cruelty in the world and trying to with all your power make it better and right
    You, shopping at the thrift store and being proud of your thriftiness when all your friends are bragging of getting the latest designer trends because you know there are more important things
    You, running around the house chasing the cat yelling “fluffy” when you so desperately just need some fuzz therapy to make the day seem brighter
    You, doing things “your way” despite the pressures to conform and be like everyone else because you know it is the right thing to do for you and the world
    You, always, sticking up for the little guy, when the whole world seems against them despite what hardship it brings you
    You, walking around with your headphones on screaming your favorite songs at top of your lungs because that is just what the child in you needs to do
    You, coming down covered in paint from head to toe with a prideful smile after a long day at the canvas creating another masterpiece
    You, sitting on the roof, watching people and the night sky creating stories in your head and finding inspiration for your next creative gift to the world
    Your passion for learning when it is not popular, courage for doing the right thing when it is hard, compassion reaching out to those in need when no one else will, for that I love you

    • seemareza

      “having and chasing after dreams despite the doubters (including yourself) saying you can’t or shouldn’t.” This line sets it up so perfectly.

  2. Michelle Van Court

    Loved the article as well! Agree with you wholeheartedly!

    • seemareza

      Right??? Still struggling with adopting it, but oy!

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