The 2015 Whiting Awards: Aracelis Girmay


Aracelis Girmay



Running Home, I Saw the Planets



On the way home, going,
with the hill & mammoth clouds
behind me, rushing to the house
before the rain, those beautiful Pakistani girls,
their faces happy as poppies, I thought, those girls
rushing home as I was rushing home
to beat the first small pieces
of rain falling down
like nickels in departing light. There
was the laughing of the beautiful girls,
shrieking gulls, five or six of them (depending
on whether I count myself), the bright
& shining planets of their dresses
lifting, just so, in the wind. & their black hairs.
& the black sound of horses, horses
hoofing it home, the click
& clop of their patent leather hooves—Still, it touches
my ear, this sound. I touch
my heart. I can’t stop touching
my heart & saying, Today is my birthday,
you see? For the beautiful clamor of planets
dressed as girls who, running home, have heads.
Whose heads swing black night, running home
on the black feet of horses, from the rain.
Now I understand. Today is my birthday.
It is Thursday, my day. My black day.

Aracelis Girmay holds a BA from Connecticut College and an MFA from New York University. She is the author of two poetry collections, Teeth (Curbstone, 2007) and Kingdom Animalia (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2011) for which she won the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2011 she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Girmay has received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Jerome Foundation, the Watson Foundation, and the Civitella Ranieri Foundation.  She currently teaches poetry as an assistant professor at Hampshire College and in Drew University's low-residency M.F.A. program. Originally from Santa Ana, CA, she splits her time between New York and Amherst, Massachusetts.