A Poem For Thursday

by Jessie Roberts

The opening lines from Aracelis Girmay’s “Cooley High“:

I guess it’s a funny thing, really,
how I can’t hear Boyz II Men,
even the 90s bedroom countdown
and the colour blue of Michael McCrary’s
‘Injection, fellas’ without wanting
to cry.

Girmay explains that the poem is based on her experience of moving to boarding school in the 1990s, an attempt to capture “the psychological and emotional consequences of leaving home and being thrown into isolated orbit, neither here nor there (quite)”:

I wanted the poem to deal with loss, and to be built on a trapdoor – to conjure a sense of bottomlessness, and the swift fall beneath the poem. I wanted the opening sentence to serve the poem as noise (the radio!) and structure. The chatty, discursive tone of those first six lines slowly gives way to a different lyrical and geographical landscape (children, prickly pears and hills). I wanted that first sentence to be a kind of bookshelf you look at, plainly, then happen to lean against … the pressure of memory, that weight, pushing you into another hidden room. The house’s true and secret interior. The first sentence thinks it is merely and safely recalling grief, but then, in fact, ends up carrying the speaker deeper into her grief again.