shower, Artist Painting Self-Portrait

By Emily Tian


the water delivers its arrows
into cells by the hundreds,
flooding the highlands and lowlands,
settling into the terraces of sinew and fat.
my ears may photosynthesize a daffodil.
the growing season thus commences
in a ceremony of soaping and rinsing.
my fingers plow ruts in my hair,
depositing fertilizer and draining the excess.
somehow the drought begins and now
I step cautiously, sylphlike,
beyond the shower curtain
hoisting my towel mid-chest,
careful so no seedlings spill
onto the tiled floor.

“Ready for a shower” © the italian voice (

Artist Painting Self-Portrait

I am drowning in whiteness—
     but I drink color like wine
     dribbling down my chin
     hurtling onto my shirt which
     shrivels like a dying carnation and now,
     I heave contours onto the tarp,
     bruising the canvas with
     violet wrested from my veins,
     brush smudging the skin into coal
     from which bones begin to poke
     like green stalks pressing into the air,
     then comes the eyes and I watch
     as they rust like the flesh of a bitten apple
     and next the lips too are born slouching,
     learning that laughter lines are a gutter for tears,
     and as I spit paint for the gnats
     who are tenants of my hair,
     within the frame I choke in full-bodied flesh,
     bound in cellophane, suffocating
—until I am drowning in myself.

Emily Tian was born in 2001 and is a high school sophomore in Maryland. Her work has been recognized by the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and the Reflections program. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in The Claremont Review, The Cadaverine, Words Dance, and other publications.

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