In high school, boys hardly ever noticed
me, and when they finally did, I could not
imagine any of them a father. One called
me the n-word when I was seven years old.

I needed a restraining order from another.
It still seems a surprise I ever had an occasion
to set up a nursery of my own with a grown
man. When I found out a boy kicked

inside me—a bright panic perfumed me
and to be honest—never left. I know almost
nothing of boys but their father taught me
a boy can grow to be a gentle man who was

also a gentle boy. If you look around
there is plenty of gentle to celebrate: a male
Darwin frog keeps a nursery in his own mouth—
babies leap from his vocal sac—a reverse

gobble-drool and such a trust he won’t fever
for a bite (and he never does!) when they jump
to a bog breakfast of wings. The male seahorse
carries a dark swell in his brood pouch until

he throws a parade ending with a confetti
of gallops. Scientists still don’t know where
whale sharks give birth. I wish we’d keep some
secrets underwater. I don’t want us to ever find

a nursery of those gentle giants. Let them swim
out and out and grow into schoolbus-sized fish.
Praise some still-unsolved equations, and maps
of unspooled, unfurled tentacles solving

for X—where X means you fall in love just when
you think you won’t—and Y means
a mystery of shrimp scuttling for cover when
you dove deeper than you ever thought you could.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is at work on a collection of food essays, forthcoming from Ecco. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller and Kirkus Prize finalist, WORLD OF WONDERS: IN PRAISE OF FIREFLIES, WHALE SHARKS, & OTHER ASTONISHMENTS (2020, Milkweed Editions), which was chosen as Barnes and Noble’s Book of the Year. She has four previous poetry collections and her most recent chapbook is LACE & PYRITE, a collaboration of epistolary garden poems with the poet Ross Gay. She is poetry editor for SIERRA magazine and professor of English at the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.