Letter to the Northern Lights

The light here on earth keeps us plenty busy: a fire
in central Pennsylvania still burns bright since 1962.

Whole squads of tiny squid blaze up the coast of Japan
before sunrise. Of course you didn’t show when we went

searching for you, but we found other lights: firefly,
strawberry moon, a tiny catch of it in each other’s teeth.

Someone who saw you said they laid down
in the middle of the road and took you all in,

and I’m guessing you’re used to that—people falling
over themselves to catch a glimpse of you

and your weird mint-glow shushing itself over the lake.
Aurora, I’d rather stay indoors with him—even if it meant

a rickety hotel and its wood paneling, golf carpeting
in the bathrooms, and grainy soapcakes. Instead

of waiting until just the right hour of the shortest
blue-night of the year when you finally felt moved

enough to collide your gas particles with sun particles—
I’d rather share sunrise with him and loon call

over the lake with him, the slap of shoreline threaded
through screen windows with him. My heart

slams in my chest, against my shirt—it’s a kind
of kindling you’d never be able to light on your own. 

More by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Upon Hearing the News You Buried Our Dog

I have faith in the single glossy capsule of a butterfly egg.
I have faith in the way a wasp nest is never quiet

and never wants to be. I have faith that the pile of forty
painted turtles balanced on top of each other will not fall

as the whole messy mass makes a scrabble-run
for the creek and away from a fox’s muddy paws.

I have been thinking of you on these moonless nights—
nights so full of blue fur and needle-whiskers, I don’t dare

linger outside for long. I wonder if scientists could classify
us a binary star—something like Albireo, four-hundred

light years away. I love that this star is actually two—
one blue, one gold, circling each other, never touching—

a single star soldered and edged in two colors if you spy it
on a clear night in July. And if this evening, wherever you are,

brings you face to face with a raccoon or possum—
be careful of the teeth and all that wet bite.

During the darkest part of the night, teeth grow longer
in their mouths. And if the oleander spins you still

another way—take a turn and follow it. It will help you avoid
the spun-light sky, what singularity we might’ve become.

Related Poems

A Meadow

What was it I was hungry about. Hunger, it is one 
Of the several contraptions I can turn on the off-button to at will.  

Yes, yes, of course it is an "Art." Of course I will not be here 
Long, not the way the percentages are going now.  

He might have been 
                                     Half-beautiful in a certain optic nerve

Of light, but legible only at particular  
                                     Less snowy distances. I was fixed on

The poplar and the dread.  The night was lung-colored 

And livid still—he would have my way 
                                     With me. In this district of late 

                                     Last light, indicated by the hour of
The beauty of his neck, his face Arabian in contour

Like a Percheron grazing in his dome of grass, 

If there is a god, he is not done
Yet, as if continuing to manhandle the still lives of

The confederate dead this far north, this time of year, each
Just a ghostly reason now. There are reasons:  One, 

Soon the wind will blow Pentecostal with the power of group prayer.

Two: the right to bear arms. Three: you did not find my empathy
Supernatural, at the very least.  

—Have you any ideas that are new?
			
I was fixed on the scythe and the harlequin, on the priggish
Butcher as he cuts the tender loin and

When I saw this spectacle, I wanted to live for a moment for
A moment.  However inelegant it was,

It was what it might have been to be alive, but tenderly.

                                     One thing. One thing. One thing:  	

              Tell me there is
              A meadow, afterward.