Fall 2009, Volume 7

Poetry by Jie Tian

The Sea at Scorpion Harbor

           Against the cliff, the sun is boiling the ocean, melting orange, red, buttery yellow, misty mauve into the cold blue water. The lighted sea turns, oily, slippery, unbreakable like mercury, tangled with waves, sea kelps, and flying shadows of pelican wings. From beach to horizon, this body rocks like a shimmering dragon, shape shifting, surrendering to the pull of gravity and the occluded moon. O, the patience of the sea, and the humility—to let the illusion play against its nightly melancholy. The sea must be old and foolish to let all this happen.

Death of the Poet

           Kneeling down beside you, I heard your breath, the poetry, the chi strong and deep, rising two inches below dantian—the seat of the soul. You were ninety-three, and sat straight-backed on the blue sofa, teaching me sound and rhythm. It was October. The persimmon tree was hung with burning orange fruits. I thought poets were born, like you—music carried in every breath. But, in December, a wild wind pulled down the avocado tree that you planted twenty-five years ago when you moved from New Haven to Pasadena. That night the wind in your throat did not let another syllable pass in sleep.

Last December, Lake Michigan

           We were bundled in sweaters and coats, scarves and hats. We wore sunglasses, fitted our boots on snowshoes, walked side by side. Protected inside clumsy mittens, our hands touched, on and off, light, immaterial, like the brushing of feathered things in the air.

            a wind beat on us, noses running, eyes tearing. We wobbled on slippery, silvery ice, bounced against each other – because of wind and gravity —light-headed, like suited spacemen walking on the moon.    

            Snow flakes falling, scattering off in all directions. The sky was covered. We headed towards the center of winter, to our favorite cave at Whitefish Bay. Water lapped in and out. The cave was sculpted in ice, undefeatable.

            Without words, without warmth, without looking at each other, our hearts soon would freeze like icicles: cold, hard, crystalline.


BIO: Jie Tian is an MFA candidate in poetry at UC, Riverside. A native of China, she has lived in the United States for eighteen years. After following careers in teaching and librarianship, she is happy to return to her childhood love of poems and literature. She is now exploring memory and migration, the meaning of art and poetry through her writings.