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About this poet

Born in 1974 in Chicago to a Filipina mother and Malayali Indian father, Aimee Nezhukumatathil is known for writing poems that sit at the intersection of three cultures: Filipino, Indian, and American. She received her BA in English and MFA in poetry and creative nonfiction from Ohio State University in Columbus.

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, as selected by Gregory Orr.

Naomi Shihab Nye writes, “Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s poems are as ripe, funny and fresh as a precious friendship. They’re the fullness of days, deliciously woven of heart and verve, rich with sources and elements—animals, insects, sugar, cardamom, legends, countries, relatives, soaps, fruits—taste and touch. I love the nubby layerings of lines, luscious textures and constructions. Aimee writes with a deep resonance of spirit and sight. She’s scared of nothing. She knows that many worlds may live in one house. Poems like these revive our souls.”

Nezhukumatathil’s awards include the Charles Angoff Award from The Literary Review, the James Boatwright III Prize from Shenandoah, the Richard Hugo Prize from Poetry Northwest, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

She is a professor of English in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program and lives in Oxford, Mississippi.


Selected Bibliography

Oceanic (Copper Canyon Press, 2018)
Lucky Fish (Tupelo Press, 2011)
At the Drive-In Volcano (Tupelo Press, 2007)
Miracle Fruit (Tupelo Press, 2003)

I Could Be a Whale Shark

                     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 by salt and rind of kelp.
I am worried if I step too far
into the China Sea, my baby
will slow the beautiful kicks
he has just begun since we landed.
The quickening, they call it, 
but all I am is slow, a moon jelly
floating like a bag in the sea.
Or a whale shark. Yes—I could be
a whale shark, newly spotted
with moles from the pregnancy—
my wide mouth always open
to eat and eat with a look that says
Surprise! Did I eat that much?
When I sleep, I am a flutefish,
just lying there, swaying back
and forth among the kelpy mess
of sheets. You can see the wet
of my dark eye awake, awake. 
My husband is a pale blur 
near the horizon, full of adobo
and not waiting thirty minutes 
before swimming. He is free
and waves at me as he backstrokes
past. This is how he prepares
for fatherhood. Such tenderness
still lingers in the air: the Roman
poet Virgil gave his pet fly
the most lavish funeral, complete
with meat feast and barrels 
of oaky wine. You can never know
where or why you hear
a humming on this soft earth.
 

From Oceanic (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.m on behalf of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org. All rights reserved.

From Oceanic (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.m on behalf of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org. All rights reserved.

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

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

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2
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When you ask me to split a dessert with you, I wince
because I don’t like to share my restaurant food

and there is the matter of who pays for what.
If I don’t order a drink and just have a salad,

always the person in the group who gobbled steak,
a glass of wine, and two appetizers says,