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Claudia Ann Seaman Award






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CAS for Database

Tianyi Shen

Byfield, MA, USA

The Governor's Academy


An open battery rib-cage. Wrinkles gnawing up a home-button. Where I used to litter everywhere

From a sea of scribbled letters, unfiled pages brewed with snot.

Before I’d lose track she collects me. Always, down lends a hand to pick up

All the way from her youth, red pamphlets, thick bangs, and double-braids tied into a swarm

Of bees, made in metal, whizzing to her ears: don’t marry

And up comes the tourmaline eyes. The emerald quilt. The month-old picture, wilted cigars.

Nu Er rolls over like a train that smelled of bloom-caster. Straight-headed to unbraid hair

And paper-wrap legs. What her sister screamed in nemesis she soothed, collecting her blood.

Back then she was not as good at collecting. But almost as brilliant, her 28-bicycles estranged, a fiend

Of the jade cuffs her Ma had made her wear. Ma whispered to her ear: don’t marry

The half-worn prayer, the Potala monk. Ripples against thin air like a gunslinger.

And down falls the jade of her hands, a tiny imprint, a tiny foot. A tiny cringe, a tiny Ma.

Ma pours over us like a thousand rivers had overflown her lips. Dawned

From dreams on the balcony: a 24K ring, a dress, a water-sogged license, a dad.

I grew up in constant fear that I’d learn to collect. My Ma from the sink, where she sits laughing

In a pool of spring water she’d harbor from her dosage.

And my Laolao, next to her, braiding the fuzz into a blotch of silent yearns

Don’t marry. The misguided lands. The lost earbud. The bland, over-priced, overseas calls. Her hands

Reach down to pick me up.

I woke with reminiscence in my jaw.


“Tourmaline” is a poem that twists between the past and present. Each image is deeply intriguing and often unsettling, though together, they form a narrative of cultural and familial change.

Tianyi is a student at The Governor's Academy, MA, and will graduate in 2023. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastics, the Morning Fruit Lit Mag, the Spire, and Kenyon Young Writers' Anthology. She hopes to illuminate familial relationships through the medium of a second language.


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