Ode to the Little "r"

by Aracelis Girmay
Girmay. Kingdom Animalia. 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.