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For Estefani Lora, Third Grade, Who Made Me A Card - Arcelis Girmay

The last couple of weeks have seen a fair share of ups and downs. Hope was renewed and faith in democratic values restored with the unceremonious defenestration of the Donald Trump by the likes of Biden and Harris in the American elections. This newfound lightness was short-lived for me, however, with the results of the Bihar elections inclining towards a party and leader who has made no bones about misleading the people on communal grounds, and invoking the electorate’s most violent and bigoted impulses. I drew some comfort from the fact that it was far from a clear mandate, and the results signalled the opening up of new possibilities that would, hopefully keep the assembly in check.

Various poems came to mind as interesting counterpoints to contemporary events, but one stood out - Arcelis Girmay’s For Estefani Lora, third Grade, who Made me a card. While the poem has no direct bearing on current political events, the prevailing sentiment is uplifting and helps relieve the burden of reality. I am deeply grateful to the ever giving and sensitive poet, Raju Tai for sharing an animated interpretation of this poem, overlaid by the poet’s own voice. For Estefani is a precious find that filled me with warmth and cast a rainbow glow on the world with its childlike wonder and untethered sense of play. Girmay works into her words, with delightful spontaneity, the mischief of a cat playing with a ball of wool. She tucks into language, treating words and sentiments with the delicate sensitivity that comes from a deep, careful engagement with the world. She writes with a big heart, and I often feel all the colours of the world flashing like neon lights through her words. The animation falls gently on the rippling surface of Girmay’s poem like a dandelion. The video has been shared in the end of this mail as well - don’t miss it!

Girmay speaking about “where a poem comes from”, speaks with that same humility and sense of discovery that peppers For Estefani:

"…there is so much about writing that remains mysterious to me. It’s interesting and mysterious and difficult for me to track where a poem comes from. I know that inspiration, when I recognize it, always has some physically felt component. I get goosebumps, a stirring in my gut, my blood suddenly runs hot. Something. Tears. A thudding of heart. But then there are other moments when a moment or an image or sound comes flooding in from years and years before, and it’s the distance and experience since then that’s helped me to be touched newly, deeply…”

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