Kottayam Morning

Chickens disturb the pebbles
just outside my bedroom window

as they skulk and search
for bark crickets. The neighbors

still mourn their youngest son,
caught under an oily car.

Four mornings here and each one
rings out funeral song and honk ::

green parrot and slender goat :: a clay dish
full of ghee. Saris tongue the wind,

trying to taste my grandmother’s
cinnamon plants and leafhopper wing.

Or the karimeen fish waiting
to be wrapped and steamed

in a single banana leaf for tonight’s meal.
A hundred bats fly inside my chest.

I hear them in my lung cave
while I am still. I want to stay in bed

a bit longer, wait until my grandmother
knocks at the door — her glass bangles

the only clink quieting what’s inside me.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is a professor of English in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program. Her newest collection of poems is Oceanic, winner of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for poetry (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). With Ross Gay, she co-wrote the chapbook, Lace & Pyrite, a collaboration of nature poems. She is also the author of an illustrated book of nature essays, World of Wonders, from Milkweed Editions, 2020. She is the former poetry editor of Orion and her poems have appeared in the Best American Poetry 2015 & 2018 series, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, and Tin House. Her honors include a 2020 Guggenheim fellowship, a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Pushcart Prize.