Aimee Nezhukumatathil

When All of My Cousins Are Married

I read books about marriage customs in India,
trying to remember that I am above words like
arranged, dowry, Engineer. On page 28, it says to show
approval and happiness for the new couple, throw
dead-crispy spiders instead of rice or birdseed.
Female relatives will brush the corners of closets
for months, swipe under kitchen sinks with a dry cloth
to collect the basketfuls needed for the ceremony.
Four years ago, I was reading a glossy (Always
, chides my grandmother) in her living room
and a spider larger than my hand sidled out
from underneath a floor-length curtain
and left through the front door without saying
good-bye. No apologies for its size, its legs
only slightly thinner than a pencil. None
of my cousins thought anything was wrong.
But it didn’t bite you! It left, no? I know what they
are thinking: She is the oldest grandchild
and not married. Afraid of spiders. But it’s not
that I’m squeamish, its not that I need to stand
on a chair if I spy a bug scooting along
my baseboards—I just want someone who gasps
at a gigantic jackfruit still dangling from a thin branch,
thirty feet in the air. Someone who can see a dark cluster
of spider eyes and our two tiny faces—
smashed cheek to cheek—reflected in each.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil
When All of My Cousins Are Married was originally published in Indiana Review (Spring 2004).
Poem, copyright © 2004 by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2004, From the Fishouse