Photo by Dustin Parsons
As three worlds collide, a mother’s Philippines, a father’s India, and the poet’s contemporary America, the resulting impressions are chronicled in this collection of incisive and penetrating verse. The writer weaves her words carefully into a wise and affecting embroidery that celebrates the senses while remaining down-to-earth and genuine.
In these fine and searching poems, Nezhukumatathil pushes and grabs at the world, wanting more and striving to name what cannot be named. As she does we see that everything is in fact miracle fruit, including this book itself.
— Andrew Hudgins
Aimee Nezhukumatathil is able to handle serious subjects with the lightest of touches. Her edgy humor and keen eye keep her poems buoyant and fresh.
— Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate
Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s delightful poems celebrate the glories of the tongue, in both senses of the word. I can think of no other poet — except Neruda — who has inscribed the sensual world with such accurate charm. ...Aimee Nezhukumatathil understands the loving and funny relations between mother and daughter. She understands the folkways of India and Ohio, and she might be the only American poet who can swear in Tagalog. Her poems are seriously delicious: toothsome and saucy, wise and mischievous.
— Alice Fulton
When language, sensory experience, and imagination meet and mingle in an inventive and convincing way, we have the ingredients for those moments of grace that characterize important poems. Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s Miracle Fruit is rich in such luscious moments. Every line is alive with the excitement of what can be known about the world, every poem bursting with an eagerness to share it.
— Gregory Orr, Judge
Second Annual Tupelo Press Poetry Competition
Winner of the 2002 James Boatwright III Prize for Poetry
, The Washington and Lee University Review.
2003 ForeWord Magazine Poetry Book of the Year
THE WOMAN WHO TURNED DOWN
A DATE WITH A CHERRY FARMER
Of course I regret it. I mean there I was under umbrellas of fruit
so red they had to be borne of Summer, and no other season.
Flip-flops and fishhooks. Ice cubes made of lemonade and sprigs
of mint to slip in blue glasses of tea. I was dusty, my ponytail
all askew and the tips of my fingers ran, of course, red
from the fruitwounds of cherries I plunked into my bucket
and still — he must have seen some small bit of loveliness
in walking his orchard with me. He pointed out which trees
were sweetest, which ones bore double seeds — puffing out
the flesh and oh the surprise on your tongue with two tiny stones
(a twin spit), making a small gun of your mouth. Did I mention
my favorite color is red? His jeans were worn and twisty
around the tops of his boot; his hands thick but careful,
nimble enough to pull fruit from his trees without tearing
the thin skin; the cherry dust and fingerprints on his eyeglasses.
I just know when he stuffed his hands in his pockets, said
Okay. Couldn’t hurt to try? and shuffled back to his roadside stand
to arrange his jelly jars and stacks of buckets, I had made
a terrible mistake. I just know my summer would’ve been
full of pies, tartlets, turnovers — so much jubilee.
When Cleopatra received Antony on her cedarwood ship,
she made sure he would smell her in advance across the sea:
perfumed sails, nets sagging with rosehips and crocus
draped over her bed, her feet and hands rubbed in almond oil,
cinnamon, and henna. I knew I had you when you told me
you could not live without my scent, brought pink bottles of it,
creamy lotions, a tiny vial of parfumeone drop lasted all day.
They say Napoleon told Josephine not to bathe for two weeks
so he could savor her raw scent, but hardly any mention is ever
made of their love of violets. Her signature fragrance: a special blend
of these crushed purple blooms for wrist, cleavage, earlobe.
Some expected to discover a valuable painting inside
the locket around Napoleon’s neck when he died, but found
a powder of violet petals from his wife’s grave instead. And just
yesterday, a new boy leaned in close to whisper that he loved
the smell of my perfume, the one you handpicked years ago.
I could tell he wanted to kiss me, his breath heavy and slow
against my neck. My face blue from the movie screen
I said nothing, only sat up and stared straight ahead. But
by evening’s end, I let him have it: twenty-seven kisses
on my neck, twenty-seven small murders of you. And the count
is correct, I knoweach sweet press one less number to weigh
heavy in the next boy’s cupped hands. Your mark on me washed
away with each kiss. The last one so cold, so filled with mist
and tiny daggers, I already smelled the blood on my hands.
CHEESE CURDS, THE FIRST TIME
Dairy aisle, and I’m confused. No one explains
why here in southern Wisconsin, all I can find
in the chilled silver bins at my local grocery
are blocks of orange ’cheese food,’ wheels of it,
even sliced, individually wrapped if I desire.
Of course it’s food, but the fact they
have to qualify it makes me suspicious.
And rightly so, says my neighbor, leaning
a meaty elbow out her window. In between
bites of potato salad she says, You’s gotta go
to the Farmer’s Market and getchu some
cheeeese curds. The way yellow oozes
out of the corners of her mouth when she says
this makes it hard to even sip my cola later
as I wander the maze of fresh produce and people
in wide-brimmed hats. A swarm descends on a booth
selling said curds, each person wanting the freshest bag-full:
white chunks, bite-sized, more solid than I imagined,
just a bit salty and sweet. Even a baby’s
pink, fat hand (hoisted high above us) clamors
for a waxy bag of her very own. How I love
the grab and pull for something you can’t name, only
knowing you want more. The thinness in your voice
as you try to describe all the breads and heaps
of fresh beans just waiting to be snapped.
I have not yet mentioned the squeak in your teeth.
Carlene Sobrino Bonnivier finds Aimee Nezhukumatathil "a sensual soul-detective" in the October 2004 issue of Our Own Voice review of Miracle Fruit http://www.oovrag.com/essays/essay2004c-4.shtml
Publishers Weekly reviewed Miracle Fruit
, in the September 1, 2003 issue: http://www.tupelopress.org/bookreviews/miraclereview1.shtml
Read the Miracle Fruit
review from the May 2004 issue of The Women’s Review of Books