January 1, 2018

Ananda Lima


I inherited from my mother
the knobbly joints and square ends
of my fingers
from my father, I got the habit of biting
my nails
their shortness, the frayed missing skin
had never bothered me
but now I have a son
and he has begun to bite too

In America, I learnt that one can snap
a rubber band against one’s wrist
each time one’s hand reaches up
towards the mouth
By the back of my hand
the rubber band disappears
into the color of my skin
but when I turn and face the inner side
it is a clear division
of my body

The first time I saw a cotton tree
I found it beautiful
the cotton so white in its brown cradle
so soft against the square tips of my fingers
I squeezed the dead flower around it
and felt joy
from hearing it crackle

As children, we had cups full of sugar
cane we chewed on it and spit
out the bagasse 
Toothless men ran the knobbly stalks
through a machine, the juice
trickled into our glasses
and the flat piece that came out
on the other side
was put through it again
until everything was gone
the dry split stalk thrown into a pile
limp like blond hair

When I first arrived in America, I didn’t understand
what people meant when they said
with an American accent that they were
Irish or Italian or French
Now that I understand
I asked my mother for a family
She said
she had never thought of such things
and she wouldn’t know much past
her grandmother’s first name
So what I have is my memory
of the faces of my relatives
and my own

When I first arrived in America, all I could see
was beauty
The snow fine like sugar
white like cotton
But now all of it
the beauty, the land, the tired metaphors
just make me sad

Before I left for America, I saw an individual
in the mirror
but today, I see my father, my mother, my brothers
my son
and a man missing skin
from tears on his back
and the man who did it
When I looked this morning,
I tugged on my rubber band
so hard
that it broke

from Rattle #57, Fall 2017


Ananda Lima: “I came to America on my own and for a predicted temporary time, as a graduate student in linguistics. I spent my first years here happily learning to turn sentences into increasingly more complex syntactic trees. I studied the trajectory of sounds from lungs, to throat, to tongue, to ear. I computed the lambda calculus of ‘longing.’ But by the time I ended my program, I was married to an American and thus here to stay. And I had also understood that I wanted a different type of relationship to language, which went beyond analyzing its mechanics. Today I use the language that brought me to this country to help me live in it. I write about being ‘other,’ about my evolving understanding of myself and my place in America, motherhood in immigration, how my son and I will always have different homes: ‘longing’ as more than a sequence of sounds, a two-place predicate, a verb with an indirect object.” (web)

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February 19, 2017

Ananda Lima


Past the underground tracks, the railroad rises
our eyes adjust to the sun over Jackson Heights
at the platform, the doors slide open and the winter
comes in with the men in their dark uniforms
silence except for the “please
stand clear of the closing doors,” the weight
of their boots sways the car and I raise my hand
towards the pole, but one of the men grabs my
wrist and I feel the cold of his black gloves
against the grooves of my tendons, the cold
crosses my skin, the cold mixes with my blood,
the cold travels in my veins, to my fingertips
to my elbow and my other hand lets go
of my son before the cold reaches him
I say “I’m an American citizen”
the soft tissue in my mouth cracks
with frost, I say it louder
“I’m an American Citizen” and the frozen edges
of the words scratch as they move through my throat
I shout “I’m an American citizen” and reflected
on the man’s visor, I see my face
I think of my son if they take me
I think of my son if they don’t
as he watches me whisper
“I’m an American citizen”
while others are taken
by the men of ice.

from Poets Respond
February 19, 2017


Ananda Lima: “This poem was written as a reaction to news reports of ICE raids taking undocumented immigrants throughout the country, as well as warnings in social media of raids in Queens and cautioning people that the number 7 is no longer safe for undocumented people. As a human being, I am sickened by the hate and targeting of undocumented people. As an immigrant of color, I am also afraid for myself and my family and sometimes end up reminding myself that I am an American citizen to try and cope with my anxiety. Unfortunately, not only does that thought fail to fully reassure me of my safety, but it also makes me ashamed to try to calm myself with my privileges, while more vulnerable immigrants are being targeted. I fear the role of that type of thinking (where the different segments of the population, terrified for themselves, fail to protect those who are more vulnerable) has played and will play in dividing the people, making us weaker and strengthening our oppressors.” (website)

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