Blank Theory

Christina Im

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

Christina Im

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
                                                  we’re safe
because a girl has us laughing
                                       on our knees?
             I warned you. Twice. It’s not
                                                    a whiteness
                         that needs your attention,
             indivisible. Liberty
                                                    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
             outbreaks, like
                           most raised hands. I’m just
wondering why you love
                          in a slaughterhouse language.
              Why we can’t sleep
                           without weapons
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,
             sweetheart, how
                                       you like that.
                          Let’s keep
                                      all our visible names.

Where Are They Now

Christina Im

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
            & gunfire—
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 YARNStrange HorizonsThe 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.