By Aimee Nezhukumatathil
There are some suits more difficult to remove:
spades, armor, tweed in the summer, lights, cups.
Those nights you thought I was home, dateless, studying
for chemistry, memorizing the dates of epic battles —
I worked myself into a lather of sweat for a field
of angry young men. Sometimes they were so close
I could feel their hot breath in the space between my head
and furry neck. Even the captain of the cheerleaders
never went that far. Every hand that once reached
for me still haunts me at the most unexpected times:
as I place vegetables on the grocery belt, or walking
the glow-wall walkway at the Detroit Airport.
Something still pulls me to the ground and it’s not
the crowd, the scent of cola and popcorn, the tinge
of engine grease, or a truck revving at Homecoming.
If you slice a jacaranda bloom between two glass slides
and place it on a microscope, the corolla will always fight
for the light. If you once posed for any pictures
with me, still have them scattered somewhere in an attic,
look carefully at the dark netting of my mouth.
If you squint hard, you can see my actual teeth,
clenched into a small scream. I was like that every night.
It was high school, after all. I was always cheering
for something. Still am. Something is always worth
cheering for. There is always some cheer
worth something. Cheer for some worth, always.
Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of three collections of poetry: “Lucky Fish” (2011), “At the Drive-in Volcano (2007); and “Miracel Fruit” (2003), all from Tupelo Press. She is an associate professor of English at State University of New York-Fredonia, where she teaches creative writing and environmental literature.
The video above was filmed at AWP’s 2011 Conference & Bookfair in Washington, D.C. Special thanks to the Association of Writers & Writing Programs.
Camera and audio work by the NewsHour’s Crispin Lopez and Kiran Moodley.