Dinner With the Metrophobe

Listen to Aimee Nezhukumatathil reading this poem.

Metrophobia is the fear of poetry.

I could tell from our onion blossom
this was all a mistake. There was no
“flower” of fried petals, but a soggy mess
in a napkin-lined wicker basket instead,

a bad corsage at the end of prom night.
But at work he was kind—always had
an extra envelope, a red pen, offered
to get me coffee from the machine

downstairs. He was the only one
who didn’t gasp when I cut eight inches
off my hair. There was no competition
over publications (he never even read


The New Yorker), and sometimes, he’d hold
my elbow as we climbed staircases.
So when he asked me out for dinner over
e-mail, I thought it was just his way.

I had to lower my silly poet-standards
of expecting roses with each question,
a clever note snuck in my coat pocket
about my eyelashes breaking his heart

or how he must see me right now. I never
expected this guy’s hands to shake all over
our appetizer of clams casino—shook so hard
his shell spilled its stewy contents on his tie.

The clatter of his teeth on his sweaty
water glass as he dribbled. The hives.
All I said was Don’t be too nice to me.
One day I might write this all down.