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When All of My Cousins Are Married

When All of My Cousins Are Married

Aimee Nezhukumatathil


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.                         5

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


reading, chides my grandmother) in her living room                     10

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                                      15


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                           20

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 –                                      25

smashed cheek to cheek – reflected in each.


When All of My Cousins Are Married

1. The speaker of “When All of My Cousins Are Married” seems ambivalent about being the only unmarried cousin. Find evidence that shows her mixed feelings.

2. What do you think the “spider larger than my hand” (l. 11) represents? What might it mean that it “left . . .without saying / good-bye” (ll. 13-14)? How is it connected to the speaker being the oldest grandchild and unmarried?

3. Spiders are considered good luck in many cultures. Look carefully at the description of how dead spiders are used and collected in lines 3-8. Might there be another reason for the custom? How can the custom be considered ironically?

4. Why do you think Nezhukumatathil italicizes words in lines 3, 9-10, and 17-19?

5. How does the poem – and the meaning of the spider – turn in the last five lines? What does this reveal about the speaker and what she sees as the difference between her cousins and herself?

6. Do you believe that the speaker is really “above” the traditions surrounding Indian marriage? Explain why or why not.

Audio Reading of Poem by Author

Nezhukumatathil, Aimee. When All of My Cousins Are MarriedFrom the Fishouse, 21 Feb. 2005. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.