Poetry / Sandra Lim

:: Classics ::

Actaeon turns into a stag, I say, as I spear the fourth  
          oily olive on my toothpick. He saw her nakedness, which was  
appalling in the way it tested the air around it.  
Then come the hounds, with their complicated names, the baying  
          and the lurid viscera. Down this road we can scarcely follow in words, 
but I always feel the clothes newly on her back, and the low 
calm that comes when bad temper is spent. He is inhumanly excited. 
A rack of antlers emerges from his forehead as I talk; there’s no  
          stuffing it back in. He doesn’t seem to notice, as he pulls me into his lap.    
I sip my drink, and the bartender decants striped red straws  
with their determined gaiety into a glass jar, carefully wipes down  
          the scarred tabletop. Humiliation, what of it? Formerly, I had a few  
feathers around my mouth, but nothing in my head.





From the writer


:: Account ::

This poem came to me as a bit of a sur­prise. I was just try­ing to pin down a scene in a bar; I cer­tain­ly wasn’t con­scious­ly think­ing about human frailty or clas­si­cal mythol­o­gy. But I love myth for the way it works as a kind of alter­na­tive lan­guage. Here, I wish for the poem to go beyond the lan­guage of psy­chol­o­gy with respect to long­ing and look­ing, or desire and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty. I hope you can hear the antlers crack­ling into view.


San­dra Lim is the author of Loveli­est Grotesque (Kore Press, 2006) and The Wilder­ness (W. W. Nor­ton & Com­pa­ny, 2014). Her new col­lec­tion of poems, The Curi­ous Thing, will be pub­lished in 2021.