About the Feature

Blood Flower

Photo by kanegen

Sometimes my gentle father texts me warnings
or jokes, or waterbird photos from his walk

around the lake in central Florida. Once, my father
texted me what to do if an elephant charges me:

watch its ears. If they are pinned back, apparently
you have seconds before it attacks. Just last week

my father sent tips on how to survive a python bite:
throw mouthwash on its face or stab it with a saw.

Neither of which I carry on my person. I live
in Mississippi. I was more afraid of people

when I lived in New York than anyone here. How they
used to smile and ask you to sign a guest book, but then

stared and followed you while you browse the paintings.
Start to approach you if you stand in front of one

too long, the surveillance like being stabbed
with a pen on your way out of the museum.

I cannot figure out how to make my tongue loll the way
the locals I love here say oil and I can’t figure out

the red burst of a flower my gentle neighbor grows
in a ceramic pot on her porch and she has long forgotten

the name so I look it up. The stain of it. The rain of it.
Its name lives inside of me. Inside of you, too.

About the Author

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of World of Wonders, named the Barnes and Noble Book of the Year. She also wrote four books of poetry and is poetry editor of Sierra, the national magazine of the Sierra Club. She is a professor in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.