I first discovered Nezhukumatathil's work at Poetry Foundation. I've posted a couple of her poems on this blog, here and here. I put her book on my wish list a long time ago, since I was intrigued by what I had seen. She is half Filipina and half South Indian and lives in Mississippi. Her writing is unexpected: light-hearted, but often with a twist. As you can imagine with her background, the references are from everywhere. "Kottayam Morning" evokes the sounds and smells of her grandmother's home in Kerala, India. "At the Center for Retired Great Apes" is set in Florida. "Kansas Animalia" laments:
I pity the lone ostrich at the Wichita petting zoo,
who plucks out her own feathers because they sold
her mate to a place in Toledo.
She writes of stargazing with her father (in spite of mosquitoes), eating Thanksgiving dinner for the first time with her future husband, ice-skating, what it's like to have a name nobody can pronounce. She writes of giving birth.
Everyone slept except my valiant
who stayed awake for almost three days
and stayed strong as a pepper plant. He was
and samosa and every good thing.
I love finding entry into the mind and life of a new-to-me poet, and I thoroughly enjoyed this visit with Aimee Nezhukumatathil.
And the chai? I was running low on the spiced kind I like to buy, Rishi Masala Chai Tea, which is expensive but worth it, so I got myself a new bag. Here's my brother on chai. I love this poem for the details of our childhood, and my students always enjoy it when I share it with them each year.
It grew in the Kericho sun
watered by the rains that swept up from Lake Victoria
every afternoon at 4
like a heavy felt curtain.
Top two leaves and a bud
picked in the pouring rain.
Flapping black raincoats and hats,
bright faces and bright singing.
The emerald of the freshly washed leaves
almost hurts the eye.
Miles of smooth green hills
stretching to the horizon of my mind.
Dried on acres of wire racks,
the smell of them a liquor in the nostrils,
drowning in the thick black scent of it,
bathing in the aroma,
the smell of home and happiness
and warm rain running down my back
and black earth and blue skies.
Memories, packaged in a green box
and sent to me by kind strangers.
Thank you to my dear friends who contributed to this birthday delight. And thank you to Linda for hosting this week's roundup!