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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, December 17, 2018.
About this Poem 

“I find using the alphabet as a compass in the map of the abecedarian form opens up the music, metaphor, and imagery of a poem, especially when dealing with the tyranny of the alphabet to corral you. But as with most forms, I find it to be a welcome guide and reminder: rather than feeling reined in, I get unspooled. When I read abecedarians, I love wondering, what goes on between each letter that is unsaid?”
—Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Hummingbird Abecedarian

Arriving with throats like nipped roses, like a tiny
bloom fastened to each neck, nothing else
cuts the air quite like this thrum to make the small
dog at my feet whine and yelp. So we wait—no
excitement pinned to the sky so needled and our days open
full of rain for weeks. Nothing yet from the ground speaks
green except weeds. But soon you see a familiar shadow
hovering where the glass feeders you brought
inside used to hang because the ice might shatter the pollen
junk and leaf bits collected after this windiest, wildest of winters.
Kin across the ocean surely felt this little jump of blood, this
little heartbeat, perhaps brushed across my grandmother’s
mostly grey braid snaked down her brown
neck and back across the Indian and the widest part of the Pacific 
ocean, across the Mississippi, and back underneath my
patio. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve been silent in my lungs,
quiet as a salamander. Those times I wanted to decipher the mutter
rolled off a stranger’s full and beautiful lips. I only knew they
spoke in Malayalam—my father’s language—and how
terrific it’d sound if I could make my own slow mouth
ululate like that in utter sorrow or joy. I’m certain I’d be 
voracious with each light and peppered syllable 
winged back to me in the form of this sort of faith, a gift like
xenia offered to me. And now I must give it back to this tiny bird, its
yield far greener and greater than I could ever repay—a light like
zirconia—hoping for something so simple and sweet to sip.

Copyright © 2018 by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of four poetry collections: Oceanic (Copper Canyon Press, 2018), Lucky Fish (Tupelo Press, 2011), winner of the 2011 Eric Hoffer Grand Prize; At the Drive-In Volcano (Tupelo Press, 2007), winner of the Balcones Poetry Prize; and Miracle Fruit (Tupelo Press, 2003), winner of the Global Filipino Award and the Tupelo Press Prize.

by this poet

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I don't mean when a movie ends,
as in, it's a! Nor tortillas splitting
with the heavy wet of bean.
And I don't mean what you do

with your lavender robe—all fluff
and socks—to snatch the paper
from the shrubs. Nor the promise
of a gift, the curl and furl of red ribbon

just begging to be tugged. What I
poem

Only a few people and three alley cats remember when the house was gray, not yellow. A pair of empty swing sets at the schoolyard rock themselves to sleep for a late-afternoon nap. A blue dog used to trot on top of little ginkgo fans confettied on the sidewalk like he showed up too late to a parade. Farther down

poem
                     Bolinao, Philippines
 
I am worried about tentacles.
How you can still get stung
even if the jelly arm disconnects
from the bell. My husband
swims without me—farther
out to sea than I would like,
buoyed