Emily Tian

Winner of the Louise Louis / Emily F. Bourne Student Award in 2018

Motorcycle Poem

Where you think this will go—
Son in a black leather jacket
revving the engine to represent
one last door clanging shut against
all the shits he used to give.
A hand resting on his jeans while he blows
smoke into the pockmarked face
of luck, who scammed his brother walking through
traffic with a bag of chips, large enough to share.
The body like a freshly poached egg from this café
downtown, its insides running sticky on a blade.
No, this poem moves lightly, and not so fast,
carrying the delicate weight of a grandfather
and a girl through the hairpin streets.
At night, as to not wake the neighbors,
they first let its engine doze for a while,
wide tires stamping two garden snails,
before climbing onto the seat
with far more compassion than the way
fear and ambition jostle each other
to inhabit the same could. The seat meant for one
but generous enough to accommodate
the youth of another, rushing forward and up
like the tallest cathedral,
where the girl prayed and the night answered
more often than the pastors, and
which, really, they would have seen peaking
above them and to their left,
if only they had turned the corner. 

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Jillian Weise on Emily Tian

I love the first line: "Where you think this will go—" Well hell, I have no idea. Show me the way. I'm reminded of Frost's "Back out of all this now too much for us." Both lines use elision to speed into the poem and all of a sudden, "Son," we're in trouble. Brother becomes "the body." And who is this dubious grandfather and where is he taking the girl? For that matter, who is the speaker? I love how the speaker gets bossy: "No, this poem moves lightly, and not so fast." Okay, let's slow down and "inhabit the same could." This is a poet of tremendous talent and verve.

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