A review in Our Own Voice Literary Ezine of Aimee Nezhukumatahil’s book of poems:

A review in Our Own Voice Literary Ezine of Aimee Nezhukumatahil’s book of poems:

Sowing Miracle Seeds in Poetry A Review by Carlene Sobrino Bonnivier

MIRACLE FRUIT feels like it was written on silk or linen or even hemp, something that absorbs deeply, and the inks she used must have been grass green, indigo, ochre. The poet says,

from SPICES Coloring 68
If your man doesn’t know cumin from cardamom, it’s time to let him go. But if he discovers a wetted paintbrush dipped into turmeric makes a soft yellow line on your back….then keep him….”

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is Filipino and Indian, born in Chicago. Her multi-cultural background informs her poems with colors and texture; her language is open, playful and killingly accurate. Her poems cast not a net but a spell, and I was under it from the first parchment page to the last salvo.

Ms. Nezhukumatathil is so connected to what she observes that when she says something reminding us there is an observer here too, it’s surprising and completely appropriate. She moves so deeply into what she sees that she finds the underlying energy of the object, its vitality and radiance, and she is not separated from it. It is like parallel lines meeting, creating a new dimension—performed so simply with an inner zoom lens, so to speak, for what is before her and what has stayed alive within her from the past. She recalls an elephant ride near Ooty Lake, where she spots a tiger

with toes spread into the shoreline, one tooth curling over his lip like a joke no one forgets. In eighth grade, I asked a boy to dance who said I’m not feeling that wild right now . . .

from OOTY LAKE 5

In a cherry orchard where her “fingers ran…red from the fruitwounds of cherries,” (THE WOMAN WHO TURNED DOWN A DATE FROM A CHERRY FARMER, 14) she wounds a young man by turning down his sweet advances. At Chowpatty Beach, “everyone looks only into (her) eyes” and all the unblinking eyes of the yogis buried up to their necks in the sand become the peacock feather she wanted to tape to her jeans back in Ohio. (PEACOCKS, 8)

I love the “jelly tongues” of coquina clams (COCOA BEACH, OFF SEASON 48) and the stingray’s “slide/ the undulation of wing/ over a helpless line of shrimp.” What she has seen stays with her and sometimes moves on.

Tiny red seahorses glide in & out of the coral shrubs. I want one to curl its ribbed tail around my finger, a mermaid’s ring. the next time I press my hand on my lover, he would feel the gallop. The cavalry is here. Every neigh & wild whip of hair.

from COCO CAY 51

The physical absence
of a thing or of a person is for her a medium
to a deeper and very beautiful reality.

Nezhukumatathil hears what the ancient Asian poets could hear in the sound of temple bells continuing in the wings of startled birds. She can do that. Keats spoke of feeling things on his pulses. She can do that. Wallace Stevens could take us from “black coffee and oranges in a sunny chair” to a longing for an imperishable bliss for the connection between the observer and the observed, that which radiates and connects us whether we know it or not. Nezhukumatathil awakes in us such a longing.

My brother, I never knew you, and yet unfairly, you know everything about me. Standing there in our father’s old shirt, I paint to talk to you. I paint to talk with you through my fingers, as if you lay somewhere between the thin slips of paint and my hand.

from JOSEPH SEES ME PAINTING MY THUMBS BLUE (for my brother who almost happened) 52

She is a sensual soul-detective. In THE ALLIGATOR, 32 “a pair of night eyes steady…dip below the watery plains–and (she is) left/ stretching to see where they will resurface. A split of waterplants” tells us where it is. Back at Cocoa Beach:

Best of all are the small impressions of a mother’s feet into a shoreline soft and dark as unfrosted cake. The prints say, Here is where she lingered over a queen Conch shell. Here is where she stayed the morning to gather bits: fire sponges, jingle shells, a remnant of whelk.


She recalls a time that she and her sister took photos in the poem, LAGOON, but they didn’t come out the way she thought they would; she was especially disappointed that there were “no stingrays, not even

one of their violet shadows on the ocean floor. Now I think all the empty ocean and coral beds behind us mean more, mean Use Your Imagination. Can’t you just picture the swoop of a dark pair
of wings beneath your flippered feet, the surprising golden iris of their eyes like teeny underwater lights, the ripple of a cold body burying itself in pink sand?

from LAGOON, 49

She decides to telephone her sister, Joanne, and gets a voice that sounds like her own saying “I’m not here, please leave a message.” The physical absence of a thing or of a person is for her a medium to a deeper and very beautiful reality.

It is not all light, though. In THE PURCHASE, she has bought a puppy and in her happiness calls home. Her mother, after telling her a horrible story about a dog being killed that had nearly died trying to protect a baby, remembers a dachshund given to her by an engineer,

. . . How she fed the dog sausages and cheese and later forgot it in the park, like a glove or a knit hat— she was so mad it didn’t find its way home! And there’s nothing more I can tell her: nothing about choosing a teeny collar, a name, watching your love fold old blankets into a crate. The surprising star-shaped paw prints near the water dish. She will remember only the dangers, the blood, her one attempt lost near the rose gardens and hysterical geese.


There is also the sorrow we find in LITTLE HOUSES, 42: the loneliness of Frieda Kahlo, the tragic absurdity of Marie Antoinette and the poignancy of Harriet Tubman, whenever she crossed into free soil saying, “I’s sure / Livin’ In Heaven now.”

In the frontispiece to her 73 poems, Aimee Nezhukumatathil chose to place this Chinese proverb:

“If Heaven drops a date, open your mouth.”

Heaven has dropped 73 dates. I envy you tasting them for the first time.