I Am Not Ready To Die Yet

Aracelis Girmay

after Joy Harjo

I am not ready to die yet: magnolia tree
going wild outside my kitchen window
& the dog needs a house, &, by the way,
I just met you, my sisters & I
have things to do, & I need
to talk on the phone with my brother. Plant a tree.
& all the things I said I’d get better at.

In other words, I am not ready to die yet
because didn’t we say we’d have a picnic
the first hot day, I mean,
the first really, really hot day?
Taqueria. & swim, kin,
& mussel & friend, don’t you go, go, no.

Today we saw the dead bird, & stopped for it.
& the airplanes glided above us. & the wind
lifted the dead bird’s feathers.

I am not ready to die yet.
I want to live longer knowing that wind
still moves a dead bird’s feathers.
Wind doesn’t move over & say That thing
can’t fly. Don’t go there. It’s dead.
No, it just blows & blows lifting
what it can. I am not ready
to die yet. No.

I want to live longer.
I want to love you longer, say it again,
I want to love you longer
& sing that song
again. & get pummeled by the sea
& come up breathing & hot sun
& those walks & those kids
& hard laugh, clap your hands.
I am not ready to die yet.

Give me more dreams. To taste the fig.
To hear the coyote, closer.
I am not ready to die yet.
But when I go, I’ll go knowing
there will be a next time. I want

to be like the cactus fields
I drove through in Arizona.
If I am a cactus, be the cactus
I grow next to, arms up,
every day, let me face you,
every day of my cactus life.

& when I go or you go,
let me see you again somewhere,
or you see me.

Isn’t that you, old friend, my love?
you might say, while swimming in some ocean
to the small fish at your ankle.
Or, Weren’t you my sister once?
I might say to the sad, brown dog who follows me down
the street. Or to the small boy
or old woman or horse eye
or to the tree. I know I knew I know you, too.
I’m saying, could this be what makes me stop
in front of that dogwood, train whistle, those curtains
blowing in that window. See now,
there go some eyes you knew once
riding the legs of another animal,
wearing its blue sky, magnolia,
wearing its bear or fine
or wolf-wolf suit, see,
somewhere in the night a mouth is singing
You remind me You remind me
& the heart flips over in the dusky sea of its chest
like a fish signaling Yes, yes it was me!
& yes, it was, & you were there, & are here now,
yes, honey, yes hive, yes I will, Jack,
see you again, even if it’s a lie, don’t
let me know, not yet, not ever, I need to think
I’ll see you, oh,
see you

Last updated August 25, 2022