Skip to content →

Ode to the Little ''r"

Little propeller

working between

the two fields of my a’s,

making my name

a small boat

that leaves the port

of old San Juan

or Ponce,

with my grandfather,

Miguel, on a boat,

or in an airplane,

with a hundred or so

others, leaving the island

for work, cities,

in winters that would break

their bones, make old,

old men out of all of them,

factory workers, domino

players, little islands themselves

who would eat & be eaten by Chicago,

New York, the wars

they fought without

being able to vote for

the president. Little propeller

of their names: Francisco,

Reymundo, Arelis, Margarita,

Hernán, Roberto, Reina.

Little propeller of our names

delivering the cargo of blood

to the streets of Holyoke,

Brooklyn, New London,

Ojai, where the teacher says,

“Say your name?” sweetly,

& the beautiful propeller

working between

the two fields of my a’s

& the teacher saying, “Oh!

You mean, ‘Are-Raw-Sell-Lease.’”

Or “Robe-Bert-Toe”

or “Marred-Guh-Reetuh, like

the drink!” & the “r”

sounding like a balloon

deflating in the room, sad

& sagging. I am hurt.

It is as if I handed her

all my familiar trees & flowers,

every drawing of the family map

& boats & airplanes & cuatros

& coquis, & she used her English

to make an axe & tried to chop

them down. But, “r,” little propeller

of my name, small & beautiful monster

changing shapes, you win. You fly

around the room, little bee, upsetting

the teacher & making all of Class-310A laugh,

you fly over the yard, in our mouths,

as our bodies make airplanes over the grass,

you, little propeller, are taking over the city,

you are the sound of cars racing, the sound

of bicycle spokes fitted with playing cards

to make it sound like we are going fast,

this is our ode to you, little “r,” little

machine of our names, simple

as a heart, just working, always,

there when we go to the grocery,

there in the songs

we sing in our sleep.

from Kingdom AnimaliaFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2011
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Published in Aracelis Girmay Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.