Shirley Geok-Lin Lim


Shirley Geok-Lin Lim is one of my CCS Professors. Our class had lunch the other day and talked about writing. Here are some of her thoughts.

On balancing:

“I do this little dance. I’m a teacher nine to ten hours a day, but I’ll only be a poet for five minutes. It’s wrong. I either have to quit teaching to be a poet, or quit poetry to be a teacher.”

On the muse:

“The muse does not wait for you. If you say I’ll come back later, she’ll say goodbye. See you.”

On guilt:

“It’s always the back of my mind, that I could be writing more. I would write better if I gave it more time. It’s a nagging sense, an uncomfortable sense. Like I’m breaking promises.”

On professors:

“Some people get older and become calloused. Fossils. We need young people to keep us going.”

Fiction — “Rue/Ruin”

Autumn:  I like to be a cynic

Spring:  a professional mood killer

Autumn:  life’s funny to the emotionless

Autumn:  yeah, but the truth is ur pretty sensitive

Autumn:  u cant fool me

Autumn:  im not just a hat rack my friend

Spring:  guess the same could be said of you, though you put on a good show

Autumn:  i do my best…

Autumn:  why do we do that?

Spring:  maybe something’s wrong with the world, something’s wrong with us, and the interactions in between really hurt.

Autumn:  im not sure if i like that


Autumn:  i just did something really dumb

Autumn:  i have no idea where i put my band aids and i cut my hand, so i decided to put nail polish on it to stop the bleeding..

Autumn:  it worked but it hurts like a bitch

Autumn:  very funny but it hurts

Autumn:  im laugh moaning

Autumn:  like ow ow hahahhahahah oww

Fiction — “Plain Boxes”

I dated Miranda (a fake name but not a fake person), the little swashbuckler, respondent to the slightest touch, a child in every conversation except for the one in which she broke it off, when her face froze with a look of sweet pie, her freckles spattered, that Pomeranian hair, those steel-white eyes like a photo in grayscale. “It’s you, not me, really,” she said. And she said it without laughing, without a huge plastic smile, without Barbie. She said it with a storeroom empty of guilt.

“What?” I asked, as sweaty as a basketball player in a Gatorade commercial.

“We’re done and you’ve got to get going,” she said. And just like that.

Fiction — “Tea Maps”

As I write this, she’s waiting for the red eye. I wish I could say that she’s leaving me forever, as Dad used to say about my Uncle in jail, “out of life, out of mind.” But nothing’s definite, definitive, finite on this annoying planet. We might be fucking in a week.

We looked at each others’ hands before we left, mine flat and ready-to-be crinkled, like a new map, hers rough as a shark fin. She called me a new soul. She said she was a teacup that’d been broken over and over again, repaired each time, never truly whole.

We never talked about the old man. Why music made us sad. Sex, about us and sex. Forbidden fruits. I never told her what she meant.