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  • Abecedarian Portent, and: Shimmies
  • Tian-Ai (bio)

Abecedarian Portent

爱: (Ài / love) celebrates the roof of the mouth and "eye" halves the poet halves the name given by
爸爸: (Bàba / father): bisector / point of blame: one-side source material for a poem about language loss and so will not be mentioned here.
西: ( / west) at five years old compasses left: the departure of word as name like arrival of
第: (Dìdi / younger brother): names me (Jiějiě / older sister) with sibling spite though in the late hours I sit on the bed holding his head like a globe.
一: ( / One) school one alphabet to rule all alphabets against language without alphabet against
发: ( / hair) static-charged on its brush: the loosener of things, as diverts to "far"—I am, I swear,
吉: (Jí / auspicious): "conductive to success": filament glow not cowprod discharge, see! I am
很好: (Hěn hǎo / "very good") the teachers say the father says the mother does not say "Tian
爱: Ài, let's speak Cantonese for a minute." Now Dìdi says "Tian-Ai" not 姐姐: Jiějiě "because I'm not a baby anymore." And I'm a baby with no globe anymore, now in the late hours on the bed
开: (Kāi / open)ing the writing hand, mouth in muscle fibers praying quietly:
留: (Liú / stay) please, I
没有: (Méiyǒu / don't have) you
内: (Nèi / inside) anymore."
哦哦: "(Oo / oh)?" they laugh,
放屁: "(Fàng / bullshit)."
气: (Qìgōng / Breathing),
二: (Èr / two) lungs coded to exhale an impossible sound
是: (Shì / "yes"), but like trebuchet only,
踢: ( / kick)ing counterweight: this poem, quickly, shoot too late temperate tympanic tadpole—
—but [End Page 166]
I'm sorry
u: mom says
v: no words start with these.
我: ( / I) said, it doesn't matter,
谢谢: (Xièxiè / thank you), I
有: (Yǒu / have) some
字: ( / words) now. [End Page 167]


I once administered fish at a spa.It was a new fad at the time:ladies laid in cold baths slipping baby salmon insidesqueezing, bearing the thrash till they bled under pressure.At some point their scales unhingedand the influx of desperate salt was enoughto snake bathers' canalsflushing out fermenting ermines.And when impatient daughters floated in:shy minnows oblivious to their ends,holding the wanting mound between their legs, asking for answers,their bathing mothers answered opium-eyed, slackmouthed, too entranced by their cleaning to answer.But then they'd awaken, rosy and new, and swoop their children up in arms,as words rivered out their mouths, showering the minnows in glistening freshwater.Every time my mother rose, I flooded with joy.

But then, a jolt in my lung,an old memory}}}}a wooden rod crashing down // crack // on the forehead of a little fry // the coin of its eye wide // expressionless //its mouth's silent              open                 close                 open                 closewhile I watched, so young,the gills : incessant puppet lips}}}its child-gasp of hangman muscle-twitch}}again the rod comes down // forehead popping like a cork // then heavy // limp in my palmthere you go honey, says the fisherman, [End Page 168] his gavel splitting                 halving                 ashing my hello}and by the day I curse I swallowthe slack of my arms [End Page 169]


Tian-Ai is a writer and musician from Seattle. She is an alumnus of the Bucknell Seminar for Undergraduate Poets. Her work appears in the literary journal Asterism, and has poems forthcoming in Flock magazine, and elsewhere.



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