Jingwei Tries to Fill Up the Sea

Mountain pebble gripped in her beak,

Jingwei flies over forest and field


mile after mile after mile, she flies

over rice farmers, over foresters


over river fishermen who spot her shadow

flying below them across a shadow sky


over mouse and rat, hare and shrew,

their thousand small and busy lives


mile after mile after mile, she flies

from the mountains to the Eastern Sea


mile on mile on mile to the shore’s rush

where she drops the pebble into the sea


and the sea sighs, Jingwei, Jingwei,

you’ll never fill me up with pebbles


and Jingwei fluffs her feathers and says,

pebble by pebble, I’ll fetch a mountain—


I’ll fetch a mountain to fill you up

so no little girl will ever drown in you


and the sea sighs, Jingwei, Jingwei,

children die, I’m larger than mountains


Jingwei turns on the wind, flies away,

back to the mountain to fetch a pebble


and the sea sighs but Jingwei has left

so the waves whisper to themselves


we held her, we held her, we held her

for a breath, then gifted her to the sky


and the sea shifts restless over sand

searching clouds for Jingwei’s return.



Mary Soon Lee

Mary Soon Lee was born and raised in London, but has lived in Pittsburgh for over twenty years. Her two latest books are from opposite ends of the poetry spectrum: Elemental Haiku, containing haiku for the periodic table, and The Sign of the Dragon, an epic fantasy with Chinese elements, winner of the 2021 Elgin Award. She hides her online presence with a cryptically named website ( and an equally cryptic Twitter account (@MarySoonLee).

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