poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, September 1, 2016.
About this Poem 

“The epistolary poem underscores the best intimacies that can arise from a letter: the measured and focused address to a specific recipient. This epistle is from a series addressed to various elements from the natural world that obviously cannot respond. I like to think of writing epistles as a writing towards—and attempting to love, or at least recognize—the strangers that live inside each of us.”
—Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Letter to the Northern Lights

The light here on earth keeps us plenty busy: a fire
in central Pennsylvania still burns bright since 1962.

Whole squads of tiny squid blaze up the coast of Japan
before sunrise. Of course you didn’t show when we went

searching for you, but we found other lights: firefly,
strawberry moon, a tiny catch of it in each other’s teeth.

Someone who saw you said they laid down
in the middle of the road and took you all in,

and I’m guessing you’re used to that—people falling
over themselves to catch a glimpse of you

and your weird mint-glow shushing itself over the lake.
Aurora, I’d rather stay indoors with him—even if it meant

a rickety hotel and its wood paneling, golf carpeting
in the bathrooms, and grainy soapcakes. Instead

of waiting until just the right hour of the shortest
blue-night of the year when you finally felt moved

enough to collide your gas particles with sun particles—
I’d rather share sunrise with him and loon call

over the lake with him, the slap of shoreline threaded
through screen windows with him. My heart

slams in my chest, against my shirt—it’s a kind
of kindling you’d never be able to light on your own. 

Copyright © 2016 by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 1, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 1, 2016, 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

poem

 

Click the icon above to listen to this audio poem.

2
poem

Exactly four different men have tried
to teach me how to play. I could never
tell the difference between a rook
or bishop, but I knew the horse meant

knight. And that made sense to me,
because a horse is night: soot-hoof
and nostril, dark as a sabled evening

2
poem
When I’m happy I can smile twice at the same time. 
So thin—a marker-tip line with a waxy shine—
a vein of a maple leaf, a dog’s upper lip, arm of anemone.
Of all the magical plants and animals in the sea,
the hagfish is the most unpopular, the most horrifying—