Published on Academy of American Poets (

Self-Portrait as C-Section Scar

When I’m happy I can smile twice at the same time. 
So thin—a marker-tip line with a waxy shine—
a vein of a maple leaf, a dog’s upper lip, arm of anemone.
Of all the magical plants and animals in the sea,
the hagfish is the most unpopular, the most horrifying—
the one that makes children burst into tears. And if that
isn’t enough, she is the only fish without vertebrae,
so she can literally tie herself into a knot to bulge out
and pop the small mouths of fish that dare try to eat  her.
Don’t you admire her clever slip and wriggle? Don’t 
you think her nerves are left a little more electric
after she is caught? Sometimes if you put an ear
to the dark slash between my hip bones, you can hear
a soft hum. Pretend it’s a skit of bees in late spring.


From Oceanic (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.m on behalf of Copper Canyon Press, All rights reserved.


Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of many books, including World of Wonders (Milkweed Editions, 2020), a NYTimes bestseller which was named Barnes and Noble's Book of the Year. She is professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi and lives with her family in Oxford, Mississippi.

Date Published: 2018-04-10

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