Sandra Lim's first book, Loveliest Grotesque, was published by Kore Press in 2006. Recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize, her poems have appeared in American Letters & Commentary, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, MARGIE, and elsewhere. She holds a Ph.D. in English from U.C. Berkeley and an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She lives in San Francisco.

Four Poems by Sandra Lim


Loveliest Grotesque

I kept the little ruin near me, I stowed it in the kitchen,
it sat in the pantry, like a jar of reddest jam,
it sang me songs of seafaring, it said the “weather being fine,”
I listened to it breathe, shiver brokenly in time,
I believed a multitude stood between us, four seasons,
the meaningless physical world, and a grammar primer,
you could see how I found it necessary,
with its immodest appeals, its constant state of déshabillé,
it is small for its age, it is too wide-awake,
so my sewing came undone with the years,
I stalked myself to the open door, the unlatched gate,
ma petite is a world sold of charms, it loves a new act,
has a leer for a mouth, has indecorous energy,
I ran from the spring glee of it, I radioed ahead,
oh I unplanned a lifetime, turned my gaze to the west,
but then it said it would make something of us both,
the sound of it touched me, fat in its cracked sadness,
it was homemade all along, it was oddly necessary,
I looked back like Lot’s wife, like the exhausted mirage
that I was, and the loveliest salt taste was whelming us,
both awash in a light of knives, and the wind it was shifting like this—

[first published in Gulf Coast ]


A Village Journal

Sun claw, coffee. Outside, a light sugary rain. Inside, a wet hem, smudged eyes. Roil of hips and then you taste it: memory shimmer, tin. Huge paws breaking the sky open, there once was so much sweetness, raw as wish, conditionless. No rush to it. A radiance hit your skin, but you mistook it. Now, as sheer as your secrets, you float in a low-flame rage. A technical rose.

Covers and uncovers you. Recollect, succulent, a generous cut. Slept with Robbie right away, so did Rosemary. Maybe too much night reading. Rose was ideal pornography, tumbling through supermarkets at night, sandwiches and cigarettes in her pockets. Stitches coming open, a fresh necklace. Muscle, tweed, silk. The season drew in its breath. And there was the ruthless cool of fluorescent lights, hoarfrost coating our blurred loveliness. I stayed. I was bitten. I could not make it down the block. He’s thrown himself off the roof by now.

Riches in a different weather. We are trading notes through the grillwork. Or I alone am leaving these bright animal clamberings lying around. Each stare, a socket. I remember. Longing in the hot dark, a low crouching disturbing my green Aprils. Rebecca bent in half by love and wandering. Born in the desert, altogether water current. Lapping. She lived in the building with perpetually dark windows, a seam of unlit roses. Outside, a heat haze. Jumped with no wings.

Uncomely juvenilia. A procession of cold data fed like a wick through sleep. Skeletal and smuggled. The birds are stuttering. I cannot describe the joy of knowing that Ethan continues, more or less. He wants to delight. Sometimes the terror just breaks off: storms pass over the houses while inside, long warm winds roll over a quieted body. Remember the concert went on and on. That music was phantom pain compared to the red dog snapping at Leslie’s great store. I am astonished by her. This is the movement that confused me then and now: disgust taking bites out of blitheness. Heavy as cowbells.

Staying on in a low land. Here I sit with my ham radio, hands folded. Lola says each love is by proxy. Adam writes me monthly, ends every letter with “do you know this horror?” What could you alter, come to this. Stay mid and swift. Recall is best and worst. And now carved from hunger, can’t say that I am a woman. Can’t say that it isn’t excellent at times. Fall shudders red and ochre, clean through to a various pain. Sparkling. Outside, a graphic error (as you marry or lean forward in the passenger’s seat or cough to cover your shame). Once, inside a night of live stars and other improbable skylights, the conversation seemed indispensable. I’ll be so willing. Ever was. Ordinary behavior, and you can walk there.

[first published in Boston Review ]


Something Something Something Grand

I adore you: you’re a harrowing event.
I like you very ugly, condensed to one
deep green pang. You cannot ask the simplest
question, your hold is all clutch and sinker.
                                               Cannibal old me,
with my heart up my throat, blasting on all sides
with my hundred red states. Hidden little striver.
How not to know it, the waist-deep trance of you,
the cursing, coursing say of you. Embarrassing today.
                                               Curiouser and curiouser,
your body is a mouth, is a night of travel, your body
is tripling the sideways insouciance. The muscle
in you knows gorgeous, in you knows tornadoes.
In an instant’s compass, your blood flees you like a cry.
                                               You put on my heat,
(that’s the way you work) I’m a bandit gripping
hard on the steal. The substitutions come swiftly,
hungering down the valley, no one question to cover
all of living. I arrange myself in the order of my use.
                                               You’re wrong and right
at the same time, a breathless deluxe and a devouring
chopping down the back door. You slap my attention
all over the dark. What’s in me like a chime?
Sometimes, sometimes, I come to you for the surprise.

[first published in ZYZZYVA ]


Three Fleas


the flea

seeks farther than the distance a beautiful wicked grin is going to answer you follows the blood that starts in the missal and alights on the tip of the tongue idiotic with travel he laughs as he’s crushed salt to salt pluck and dive names sweet as cakes Celias Julias Corinnas a little dog is always in the corner the smirk will crest to ardor artichoke blooms dressmakers pins slipping songs pouring off their wings and after what dies tiny stitches furiously ticking so it wins its freedom from deepest exuberance tilted into the innocence of a number copying a life gently now the nets part and run open and what did the poet say standing there in the torn rows a waterfall widening happiness


the flea

squats in me beautiful crooner more human more doggy dealing heat here and there little heaps of sugar the mottled peelings of pears massages the blood from congestion introduces the Mexican border suture ligature my fan of bones won’t have it any longer arms akimbo dirty girl it soars up from the mincing hooves of a pony the horsefly with satiny eyes dots the way decadent and needful in a state library in the warm core of a split tree in the eagle-haunted passes milk chocolate cigarette papers and after what dies the luxurious convalescence squandering joy the carnage of august what does it matter hopes are high wink over a gorgeous little casket someday arousing my whimsical greed


the flea

tells me the dream clots like blood upon waking but to be true stay true