I read books about marriage customs in India,
trying to remember that I am above words like
arranged, dowry, Engineer. On page 28, it says to show
approval and happiness for the new couple, throw
dead-crispy spiders instead of rice or birdseed.
Female relatives will brush the corners of closets
for months, swipe under kitchen sinks with a dry cloth
to collect the basketfuls needed for the ceremony.
Four years ago, I was reading a glossy (Always
reading, chides my grandmother) in her living room
and a spider larger than my hand sidled out
from underneath a floor-length curtain
and left through the front door without saying
good-bye. No apologies for its size, its legs
only slightly thinner than a pencil. None
of my cousins thought anything was wrong.
But it didn’t bite you! It left, no? I know what they
are thinking: She is the oldest grandchild
and not married. Afraid of spiders. But it’s not
that I’m squeamish, it’s not that I need to stand
on a chair if I spy a bug scooting along
my baseboards—I just want someone to notice
things. Someone who gasps at a gigantic jackfruit
still dangling from a thin branch, thirty feet
in the air. Someone who can see a dark cluster
of spider eyes and our two tiny faces—
smashed cheek to cheek—reflected in each.
Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently, Lucky Fish. With poet Ross Gay, she is the co-author of
the chapbook, Lace & Pyrite. Awards for her writing include an NEA Fellowship in poetry and the Pushcart Prize. She is the poetry editor of Orion magazine and her poems have appeared in the Best American Poetry series, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Poetry, and Tin House. She is professor of English at The State University of New York at Fredonia and in 2016-17, Nezhukumatathil will be the Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.