Poetry: “Terra Firma” by Jessie Li

Terra Firma

For my grandmother, who could no longer
speak, I made this prayer:

for the voice inside her to beat like the earth,
like the tulips outside her window,

swelling with life. For her to call me once
more to water the young bulbs together.

Instead, my grandmother
curled into herself, wanting nothing

but water, her body an unsteady bough
of pine, hewed for chairs and tables,

pianos that could only vent notes
withered and flat.

If only she could sing again, dirt-drunk
and living. I thought, if this earth

kept beating, she would never die.

Jessie Li is a student at Davidson College, where she majors in English. Her work has been featured in or is forthcoming from The Adroit Journal, Rookie, Imagine magazine, NPR/WPSU’s This I Believe, and elsewhere. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus Davidson and a Student Fellow for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.