Mechanical metamaterials exhibit exotic properties that emerge from the interactions of many nearly rigid building blocks. Determining these properties theoretically has remained an open challenge outside a few select examples. Here, for a large class of periodic and planar kirigami, we provide a coarse-graining rule linking the design of the panels and slits to the kirigami's macroscale deformations. The procedure gives a system of nonlinear partial differential equations expressing geometric compatibility of angle functions related to the motion of individual slits. Leveraging known solutions of the partial differential equations, we present an illuminating agreement between theory and experiment across kirigami designs. The results reveal a dichotomy of designs that deform with persistent versus decaying slit actuation, which we explain using the Poisson's ratio of the unit cell.