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Published: Sun Jul 1 2018
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas
Naming the Heartbeats

I’ve become the person who says Darling, who says Sugarpie,
Honeybunch, Snugglebear—and that’s just for my children.
What I call my husband is unprintable. You’re welcome. I am
his sweetheart, and finally, finally—I answer to his call and his
alone. Animals are named for people, places, or perhaps a little
Latin. Plants invite names sewn from plant parts or colors. When you
get a group of heartbeats together you get names that call out
to the evening’s first radiance of planets: a quiver of cobras,
a maelstrom of salamanders, an audience of squid, or an ostentation
of peacocks. But what is it called when creatures on this Earth curl
and sleep, when shadows of moons we don’t yet know brush across
our faces? And what is the name for the movement we make when
we wake, swiping hand or claw or wing across our faces, like trying
to remember a path or a river we’ve only visited in our dreams.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Oceanic (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). Her recent poems have appeared in Poetry, Tin House, and The American Poetry Review. She lives in Oxford, Mississippi, and is professor of English in the MFA program at The University of Mississippi. (updated 3/2018)

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