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Abigail Lim Kah Yan



the poet

Abigail Lim Kah Yan is a Malaysian engineer and spoken word poet who'll point out to you every plane she sees in the sky. She won the 2022 Kuala Lumpur Youth Literary Arts Festival Poetry Slam, and had her poem How to Paint the Rainbow When You're Colourblind published in the 2021 Malaysian Millennial Voices anthology.

the poems

Domestic Arrival

00:00 / 01:50

You told me I felt like home earlier on. But the way you bring my feet to your lips to kiss them makes me feel like a church instead, an altar. Catholics are called to repent during Lent, and it feels like we're always apologizing in advance. When I cry, and I cry a lot, you do not tell me to stop. You reach out to hug me just as soon as my eyes turn glassy like yours, watching the rims of my glasses catch the first drops of tears. You told me to write sad poems about you, but you're the happiest part in all of them.

Because you bring offerings too, of fancy chocolate, and the Killer Queen champagne and so many burgers. The remnants of smoke and ash in my bathroom like incense wafting from thuribles. And teaching me Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah on the electric guitar is the closest thing we can both agree on for a hymn.

You told me I'm your matriarch, because in the words of Taylor Swift, fuck the patriarchy (in more ways than one).

You told me I felt like home earlier on, and I told you, you make me feel like Eve, you, my Adam, I want to split open my chest cavity, dig around for the one rib that has always felt misplaced in me, break it off, hands scarlet and ivory, offer it up to you, say, 'I think this belongs to you, how long have you been without it?'


Inspired by Robert Frost

00:00 / 02:28

Nothing gold can stay

and nothing good can stay

I want you to stay so bad, I only wear silver jewelry,

keep the gold rings and necklaces for special occasions.

because nothing gold can stay

and an orange sunset only casts its glows

for so long on my Kelana Jaya condo

we watch it fade together,

from the swimming pool, floating,

hands reaching out like otters at sea,

afraid to drift too far away

because nothing good can stay

I am afraid to wonder

if we'll ever trade our silver rings for golden ones

di tanah yang sudah mengenal rasa darah kami,

yet still demands its pound of flesh

why do I need to renounce my faith for something you have ceased to believe in

We are mere casualties of the 1984 Islamic Family Law

I wonder if there are those before us

Who did not yield to this pressure, a cult, beckoning

Gold is typically a malleable metal

darah mereka bukan lagi milik tanah ini

and I want to break your IC in half,

Make you a new one, take my last name,

You're already more of a Lim than I am,

Christened the Lim Jetty in Penang with spills of beer and cigarette ash

teaching me to speak my ancestors' tongue

'Wā, nĭ huì jiǎng Huá yǔ ā' all the aunties say

Can we make gold stay?

Because I'm an engineer, and you're pretty smart,

Together we'll polish the little gold we have until they shine constantly,

We're both clumsy, but we seem to have a pretty solid track record of keeping

                                                                              our silver rings safe

If we can make good stay,

I will follow you beyond a sunset's horizon,

To a land where personal beliefs are kept personal

(I don't need a church or a government to recognize our union)

And if gold rings are too precious a commodity,

I'd marry you with paper rings in a heartbeat.


00:00 / 01:47

I think some planes were meant to stay grounded – like the 737 MAX after the Ethiopian Air crash.

I think I am what happens when a plane stalls, suddenly, there is not enough lift to keep me off the ground, and my internal pilots suck at recovering.

I think this is as close as I get to Icarus, he too has felt the thrill of flying high, hair tickled by the wind, waxy wings white against a golden-blue sky.

I think I am as stubborn as Icarus, somehow believing I can touch the sun, but gravity will have us in its grasp at the last second. He too would've felt the air sucked from his lungs as he fell all the way down.

I think we both do not have time to grieve unsuccessful dreams, we just die along with them.

I think some dreams were meant to be forgotten the moment you wake up, but I remember all my sleep paralysis demons.

And I think I do get a little sad each time I see a plane in the sky, knowing I am so far removed from ever touching it.

But I hope my love still finds it adorable when I compulsively tell him, 'see plane' or 'got propeller, looks like ATR 72', neck stretching out windows to get a better view.

I think, on some days, he is the dream I get to wake up to.

I think I am trying to be happy staying grounded, at the very least, you can't have a good flight without a safe landing.

Publishing credits

All poems: exclusive first publication by iamb


S h a r e

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