Monday, April 22, 2019

30 Great Poems for April, Day 22: “Thanksgiving” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Read “Thanksgiving” in the online journal Literary Hub here.

This is a recent poem; it came out this past November in Literary Hub, and it became yet another Aimee Nezhukumatathil poem that I love. I especially like the feel of an incantation or chant early on, a bit like a prayer with all the “blessed”s. All those details, with perhaps my favorite being one of the most intimate: “I’ve committed the soap / and clean blade of his neck to memory”—the very kind of detail you remember about someone who catches your interest. And there’s a feeling of laughter, loud talk, even of awkwardness in this circle of friends or acquaintances (we’re never really told which). And the whole poem has the feeling of a chance encounter; I mean, don’t you read this poem and think that love can happen, even at a dinner party you maybe didn’t want to go to? There’s a feeling that life opens out this way, unexpectedly.

But my favorite thing about the poem is how unresolved it is at the end, how it stops in mid-story, which we realize is the most important moment, the true revelation. The man just “grew quiet. Concerned.” And then we know why, and we also know that the speaker probably didn’t know at the time why he grew quiet. But she knows now, and she lets us know; we’re in on the beautiful secret. But he doesn’t take action; there’s no fight; we don’t see them leaving the party and exchanging phone numbers on the driveway. The rest, as they say, is history. “Married” is all we know or need to know.

All the details here are just right: the holiday, food, decor, the newness of these people, the intimations of the future. The tightly focused lens of memory and what it remembers and what it leaves out. This poem is probably too new to be in a book yet, but I’ll be buying that book when it comes out.

[All through April, I’m featuring a favorite poem every day, along with a link where you can read it. Some are classics, some are newer, but each one is the kind of poem that I read, love, and immediately want to tell all my friends about. What better to time to share them than National Poetry Month?]

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