Sea Women of Jeju

by Doreen Beyer

A small fire feeds on fruit boxes,
warming arthritic bones made cold
under forty feet of sea.

She is haenyo, a sea woman,
as was her mother, and her mother
before her—divers, since the

seventeenth century. Old women,
with hard memories of their men
eaten by the sea.

They descend its depths, bare hands
travel its floor, gather abalone,
conchs, biting octopodes.

Over the centuries grows an affair
—the shudder of the water, pressure
alive on her skin, serenades of salt,

the possessive embrace of her
bones—heavy with the chilled passion
of hardened swells.

In lucid moments of rice wine offerings,
the mindset is one of equanimity—
for the abundance of the sea,

and daughters who don’t even know
how to swim.


Doreen Beyer is a school nurse and poet, currently living in Sacramento, CA with her husband and two dogs, Taka and Teya. Her poems have appeared in Bamboo Ridge Press, Hawaii Pacific Review, Pacific Review, Song of San Joaquin, and Tule Review. When not working or writing, she enjoys walks along the Sacramento River with her dogs.

1 Comment

Filed under Poetry

One response to “Sea Women of Jeju

  1. Wonderful description. 😀

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