Finalist for the 2018 Best of the Net Anthology
After Margaret Atwood & Santa Fe High School
You can just start. Here. Without a bullet
in your mouth. Keep inventing clean rooms
to not die in. You can try with only love
in your gun-grimed palms. Slice it open,
flood it with heinous light. I really mean it:
the boy builds house after house. You’re still
not there. The seconds walk by on stilts,
blessed confusion, so simple and afraid.
Small impacts. You can get by, now,
without feeling them all. His body just a list
of bright places you’ve left. His last words,
honeyed years you sling over your head.
How, I ask you, do you hold it, stay mortal?
Bold mercy collapsed like a lung. Brother
outrun in a bag. And every time numbers,
like there’s breath left in those, mornings,
little survivable switches, on, off, on,
off. Freedom is whatever keeps the tape on
your face. And the piano in reckless tune. Please--
you always screamed faster than anyone
could move. There’s no verb for this lead
-locked ache. You were just fine, right,
without direction, and his blood running
away, still, away. You set fire to things
you couldn’t carry. Fragmented any sky
that wouldn’t translate. That was easy.
After all, there’s no sound alive that’s bigger
than your country, silver-tongued
pilot, knuckled over ages, unaware
of thin boys yellowed into its wings,
deadly, smiling, yes, and doing its best.
The Cleverness Speaks
After Jeanann Verlee
Look: in this one
you’re smiling. It’s a bad time to be
staring at a white girl. Is there ever
a good one
-way road into the burn.
She’s so smart. I know.
I unbolted her for you.
We don’t see yet
how easy it is, stumbling
through the gas with one hand
open. You’re too exquisite
to eat. Sleepless in song
under the fingernails. It’s your last
year as hometown suspect.
All you ask is to live
young and corrected.
You think you can go
negotiating now? You think
because a girl has us laughing
on our knees?
I warned you. Twice. It’s not
that needs your attention,
and jaundice for all.
You’ve never even thought
about skin. You have
a bad idea, a high stunned laugh.
Pulse written past noon and straight
from the skull, like most
most raised hands. I’m just
wondering why you love
in a slaughterhouse language.
Why we can’t sleep
close to our heads. We were born futile.
Please believe me. I’m
scared. I’m so scared. I want us to sound
like ourselves for once,
only I can’t know
what you’d say.
Want to make something cold
and true about this, only
all the poets are outside counting
the dead. I have to push
your body into
these scars, see how it dries
in the stenciled light.
Shame that silence
into solid gold. Let’s see,
you like that.
all our visible names.
Where Are They Now
After Troye Sivan
Anything but the walk home.
Glass eyes on my throat:
all unfinished sentence
held close to the chest.
These streets know nothing kinder
than the palm of my hand. The afternoon
sinking out of its own conscience. Time is easier
here. & the day drowns reckless in the dust.
I open my mouth once more
there are no soft roads to dusk
in this town.
Gold: the most violent shade of grief.
The light misunderstands me.
Turns me unbeliever. This is fine. I keep loving myself
into emptier houses. This is fine.
& no one
has made any sense of sundown, what it means
to fall behind a rooftop.
The years never start to hurt. & even now
anything that fades leaves me
here to find what is wrong,
where we live.
about the writer
Christina Im is a Korean-American writer and rising freshman at Princeton University. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in YARN, Strange Horizons, The Blueshift Journal, and The Adroit Journal, among others. A three-time Best of the Net nominee, she has been recognized for her work by Bennington College, Hollins University, Princeton University, the Adroit Prizes for Poetry & Prose, the National YoungArts Foundation, and the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. Her poem "Meanwhile in America" was selected by Natalie Diaz for inclusion in Best New Poets 2017.