Feb 20, 2020 Michelle Phương Ting

to be longing for

This poem, from Aracelis Girmay’s the black maria, has been living with me lately. It is itself a “water song” that describes many conversations I’ve had with the other fellows. I think of stories we’ve shared where “‘belonging,’ suddenly, is a strange word,” and makes sense only in its rupture: “to be longing for” that brother or sister or sense of home. We are, in our varied practices, always longing for something: the feeling of our bodies, some vision, a future, touch itself.



the afterworld sea

there was a water song that we sang
when we were going to fetch river from the river,
it was filled with water sounds
& pebbles. here, in the after-wind, with the other girls,
we trade words like special things.
one girl tells me “mai” was her sister’s name,
the word for “flower.” she has been saving
this one for a special trade. I understand
& am quiet awhile, respecting, then give
her my word “mai,” for “water,”
& another girl tells me “mai” is “mother”
in her language, & another says it meant,
to her, “what belongs to me,” then
“belonging,” suddenly, is a strange word,
or a way of  feeling, like “to be longing for,”
& you, brother, are the only one,
the only one I think of  to finish that thought,

to be longing for
mai brother, my brother

Source: Poetry (April 2016)