I Could Be A Whale Shark
I am worried about tentacles.
How you can still get stung
even if the jelly arm disconnects
from the bell. My husband
swims without me—further
out to sea than I would like,
buoyed by salt and rind of kelp.
I am worried if I step too far
into the China Sea, my baby
will slow the beautiful kicks
he has just begun since we landed.
The quickening, they call it,
but all I am is slow, a moon jelly
floating like a bag in the sea.
Or a whale shark. Yes—I could be
a whale shark, newly spotted
with moles from the pregnancy--
my wide mouth always open
to eat and eat with a look that says
Surprise! Did I eat that much?
When I sleep, I am a flutefish,
just lying there, swaying back
and forth among the kelp-y mess
of sheets. You can see the wet
of my dark eye awake, awake.
My husband is a pale blur
near the horizon, full of adobo
and did not wait thirty minutes
before swimming. He is free
and waves at me as he backstrokes
past. This is how he prepares
for fatherhood. Such tenderness
still lingers in the air: the Roman poet
Virgil once gave his pet fly
the most lavish funeral, complete
with meat feast and barrels
of oaky wine. You can never know
where or why you hear
a humming on this soft earth.
Previously published in Asian American Literary Review.
Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s fourth book of poetry, Oceanic, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon and her nature essay collection is forthcoming from Milkweed, both in 2018. She is poetry editor of Orion and is the Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi's MFA program.