Teeth – Aracelis Girmay

for cousin gideon, who drove us to massawa
Two sisters ride down with us
to Massawa’s liberation celebration.
One sister is the color of injera; her teeth are big and stuck-out.
One sister is a cinnamon stick.
Their almond eyes are the same.
The ink black hair falls beautiful down their backs.
I see that you love one of them & change my mind
many times about which I choose for you.
Months later, I will show their photographs to my father
who will laugh & say he knows,
‘It is this one,’ he will say, surely, pointing                                                                                                                 to the woman whose teeth stay in her mouth.
(What man will choose a woman
whose mouth is stronger than his hands?)
But, cousin, for you I choose the older one
whose teeth might be bullets of ivory;
I imagine that from this mouth:
ax equal to lace, the yellow & lick
of a jar filled with
the sweet of stinging bees.


“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?”

– Aracelis Girmay