Aimee Nezhukumatathil is another poet I've never had the pleasure of meeting. A friend suggested I read her a few years ago, and it's taken me far too long to explore her poems, but I can say now that his recommendation was correct: Nezhukumatathil's work is fantastic.
Nezhukumatathil has an obvious command of imagery and diction, but one of the aspects I most appreciate about the poems I've read is her intelligent pacing. In recent years, I've come to respect, more and more, poets who take their time - and I think that can still be an unusual quality in poets in their 30s. So I say this as a serious poetry nerd: Nezhukumatathil's understanding of pacing moves me. Her line breaks are fantastic. Her syntax, gorgeous. It's a real pleasure to read the work of someone who lovingly builds the trellis on which her climbing vines might thrive. I'm happy to visit Nezhukumatathil's morning glory palace, and I'm so glad she continues to grow.
The time it takes for a three-toed sloth
to climb down from her cecropia tree
is faster than the time it took me
to take a deep breath and write this.
And when a snail—the very symbol
of slow-time and sloth—shreds his food
to bits with his radula, even that is quicker
than the time I spent thinking how I could
acknowledge: I need us to not end.
I need you to stay with me. It’s ridiculous,
outrageous—this desire to smell
the button channels of your shirt, to bite
your lip, fingers, even the tiny stones
in your ear. Sometimes soap is the only
lovely thing in a hotel room. I can do nothing
with this want. The lay of dumb thin veins
across my heart—like golden growing mats
of sargassum in the sea—won’t budge.
Instead, I stare at the profile of your
beautiful nose and your top lip that I want
to bite so badly and will tonight--
I assure you—before this evening ends.
But if you must leave, I have to thank you,
Mister End-of-Summer: for these months,
for the softness of each bite into stone fruit.
For pluots and peaches rinsed bright
in the sun. Thank you for the grey doves
that erupt from my hands. Thank you also
for the quiet whimper of the blood parrotfish,
bred purposely to have the smallest of mouths.
Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of three books of poetry, most recently, Lucky Fish. Honors for her writing include the Pushcart Prize and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is professor of English at SUNY-Fredonia (www.aimeenez.net).