Poetry: Sophie Grimes


1. You Are the Thorns, the Thread, the Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Wild plum thickets form a dense tangle
[criss crossed string in a shoebox]
of small, stiff branches. They also possess thorns
[silver pushpins]
and are favorite trestles for perching
[buttons and pearls]
frost is      [for snow, sprinkle sugar]
salt on tangled wings.

2. Pepper Grinders Like Hong Kong Buildings

Open the pantry cabinet, and see,
the inside is mirrored. There is a row,
no thousands, of wooden pepper grinders.
Pepper grinders! Have you ever seen
anything so beautiful? What’s inside
the pepper grinders? Pepper corns
(the color of your eyes) in nests
of hair that fit like foil in the fish’s eye,
like shine on skyscrapers.You reach
for one and then your hands: so many
hands, like monsters, like millions
of salmon in cold water, cutting upstream.

3. From a Train

This one has a crank. It’s like a music box, but the thing
that moves
is painted palms and an occasional cottage.
The gumball rolling between the aisles is a coconut, the flies
pinned on the paper are the birds. There’s your
instant noodles, your mint-
box suitcase.
The rising sun dyed red on a white background with islands is your heart, or the tissue
pressed against a child’s bloody nose while the bread-box train
climbs up
into the mountains.



Spring nights are ponderous with sounds
of fornicating cats and that woman on the top floor
who the whole place knows is faking
including the trash family, always eating
from steaming tins in the cold evenings. The trashwoman, who fights
with the trashman when he drinks, takes the extra bed and clothes
I don’t want and always says, hello, and makes her kids say it too.
What will you do with the bed? I ask. The kids can sleep on it.
They echo in the stairwells where a sign says, Stop Scuffing Up The Walls!
The key broke once and a locksmith came
and took the door apart and once a man delivered an airplane ticket
I bought online. Geez! It took me so long to find you!
He said he had to ask where the foreigner lived
all down Development Street.
Once, I opened a high cabinet and a stuffed animal fell on me.
Once there was a dazed cockroach in the kitchen
that I apologized to before killing.
There was pickled garlic, and eggs, always eggs.
The irregular plink in the very early morning
was a woman breaking nuts outside, under the sink.
Once some kids saw me through the window. Hello!
How are you? they said, and, Good afternoon!
What is your name? I hid under the table
for some reason. Bare-kneed on the floor.
Hello! Hello? Where are you from?
they yelled. You are a pig,
one ventured. Then, You are a stinking Peeegue
I remember having a difficult time finding sturdy surfaces
to write on. I was often angry
because of how that table wobbled when I wrote
letters home. In the night, a huge cat stood
at my door. He was bald on his head and missing an eye. He did not want any help
from me. Sometimes I watched him through my peep-hole.
His tail moved and he never tried to clean himself.


SOPHIE SUMMERTOWN GRIMES has lived and traveled in China as an Oberlin Shansi Fellow, and again as a Robert Pinsky Global Fellow. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Boston University, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, 491 Magazine, CRATE, and Spoon River Poetry Review. Second runner-up for the 2011 New Letters Prize for Poetry, she lives in Chicago, where she is completing her first book of poems, and learning how to be a tour guide.