09-15-2016

Sandra Lim

 

Snowdrops

Spring comes forward as a late-winter confection, and I cannot decide if it advances a philosophy of meekness or daring.

 

This year's snowdrops: is it that they are spare, and have a slightly fraught lucidity, or are they proof that pain, too, can be ornate?

 

Even a propped skull is human nature. And its humor is monstrous, rich with an existence that owes nothing to anyone.

 

Fat little pearls against the ice, battering softly, try even fewer qualities--

 

To say that you love someone or something to death is to hover around the draw of irrevocability.

 

More faith is asked of us, a trained imagination against the ice-white.

 

Ver Novum

First day of spring-
it's maintaining, calling, shining. 
Probably it hurts its business a little.

/

She sings in response:

What strokes my abdomen, titillates my fur?
My coils sweeten, all tensed and set.

The season is a burst harp.

/

Soirs, evenings. And yet it has some afternoon in it as well.
I don't need much more than this to fall in love.

/

Reading deeply had incarnadined her cheeks.

/

Maytime! My mint going out of its mind,
my garlic groaning quietly. 
I feel like a complete change of circumstances.

/

This time of year challenges you
like a little magician

fanning the day's cards 
brusquely in your face.

Pick a card, any card.
Change the flesh into word.

That word may sound broken into: 
you can hear life beating

on its fiery way within it, brutalities 
and banalities going about their custom.

/

It was like an oar going into water, gliding.

You could hear the clatter of the stars 
coming out, like falling stones

in spring rain, remote from theology.

/

She sits down to dinner 
in a casual trattoria,

surrounded by Dionysian big cats,
her racy expat friends.

She sets down a brisk narrative of her life
in loony detail and Taurean pleasure.

She used to sit and cry, thinking about it,
loving it no less.

The spectacle is not discouraging!
The way she beholds it has the sin of pride.

/

April and March, overcurious about sex,
thump against the screen door.

Lovelessness in these months
seems a travesty,

like wigs in sherbet colors, too loud against
the season's paradisal light.

/

Snowdrops looking tatty.
They don't feel the threat
that I would feel.

/

Investigating his wish to die, 
he goes to a teaching hospital.

The puppet feels the hand at times,
wildflowers, their underneath.

/
The season lays palely 
on a white platter,

its calm faded eye looks 
far beyond us.

We sense our own claims
shrinking.

/

For fear of the winter's teeth,
the spring queen had them pulled.
Now it cannot chew,

it must subsist on slop.
Now its face has no mouth,
and its hair never saw scissors.

The queen folds her mind over it, 
as if discovering a new crystal.

/

If word can become flesh,
now leaning its forehead against cool glass,

now discovering a passion 
for Thomas Hardy,

can't it be the spur that coaxes
out the strangest beast

within the beast, the spirit?

/

The cat in heat is 
in the grip of a new idea:
She barks!

/

The sense of the season is pursued through
its reprimands: crocuses and pansies,

snowdrop, scilla, a Tête-à-Tête 
daffodil. Tulips, peonies,

azaleas and hyacinths.
Jack in the Pulpit.
/

Affection chains thy tender days.
Candles burning into their tins.

/

In the spring the quinces

/

Like a water-flower dropped 
in a glass of water, 
spring grows--

/

at times meaning 
the world, its fan of pages;
other times, only conscious

of something turning.

/

The grip of solitude--

/

All my wet trees, breathing happily

/

From half-dark to half-dark,
I read autumn poems in spring.

Buson writes about stepping
on his dead wife's comb 
in their dark bedroom.

In fact, she outlived him by thirty-one years.

The chill from that comb, and the snap
of eros and solitude and imagining,
all in flower.

/

Threes conclude into ones,
as in the Christian mysteries.
Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce.
/

What is the heart of the problem?

The flaring March lily subverts
all our emotional gourmandizing,

like a serene, inviolable erotomane
cupping its ear to listen to our true secrets.

/

The explorer with his walleye
and fading map peers into the distance.

He is so far from where he started,
and wasn't this the point?

To have the cookbook turn 
into parable, or vice-versa,

it didn't matter. Now, it was as if
he were a new pair of scissors

biting into a clean sheet of paper.
Rupture, instead of continuity.

He wills his eyeball into place 
and walks boldly into the conditions.

/

The heart's best trick?
For the one and only spring you will be given this year,
let your happiness crawl all over the floors.

/

Spate of thundershowers in spring.
It has an intellectual appeal, 
pointing to nothing.

/

Now the coldness merely asks you 
to tear your life apart
and begin again.

Pilgrim, throw it away, make it larger.

/

Spring, which says it's never been unfaithful,
mixing insult and provocation.

 

Wintering

The stars gave up their deep drifting and touched bottom.

 

No clouds toppled across the snow wilderness.

 

No gloom-dark tree-glitter winding and twining its silks.

 

Blankness, egg-quiet.

 

The level sprawl of the world drew away tinily, in every direction.

 

Afternoons remained unknown to each other.

 

Yet loss keeps thudding past my house, telling me I'm not done.

 

My hearts, still leaping like rats.

 

-from The Wilderness, selected by Guest Editor Phillip B. Williams

 

BIO: Sandra Lim was born in Seoul, Korea and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She attended Stanford University, and holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Sandra Lim is the author of two collections of poetry, Loveliest Grotesque (Kore, 2006) and The Wilderness (W.W. Norton, 2014), winner of the 2013 Barnard Women Poets Prize, selected by Louise Glück. Her work is also included in the anthologies Gurlesque (Saturnalia, 2010), The Racial Imaginary (Fence, 2015), and Among Margins: An Anthology on Aesthetics (Ricochet, 2015). She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Getty Research Institute. A recipient of a 2015 Pushcart Prize, her work has appeared widely in journals such as Literary Imagination, Columbia Poetry Review, Guernica, and The Volta.