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  • Writer's pictureLammergeier Staff

Two Poems | Ellen Zhang

Without Warning

starfruits drop, yellowing

into the ground, into our stomachs

into our ankles & toes, twinning

into our chest cavities. Stars 

rooting inside of us, texturing 

to contextualize the constellations 

we drew & swallowed onto bodies

slick with summer heat & sweat.

We wouldn’t believe it looking back 

but it was more sweet than sour, 

we wavered in sync in a way that only 

the intersection of childhood

and independence can gnaw 

into adulthood. This is a delicate time. 

Shifting smoke, bark, cocoa seeds 

onto the palm of our hands, 

we did not know what we prayed for 

only that we could shape & mold 

our lives easily with the jut 

of our hips swaying, hair streaked

with huito juice, electrifying 

our way into the river, clay 

squishing between toes, smeared 

onto our faces, masking everything

& anything & nothing. We did 

not know that there was something

to hide from. All we knew was 

the best hiding places were ones 

worth exploring even at the risk 

of getting lost, finding nettle 

in our underwear, losing our rings 

bartered for so little that we celebrated

losing parts of ourselves in the earth 

that we crowned ours. In dreams, 

we walked in the shadows 

barely crossing. In reality, 

we ran barefoot across 

a childhood we didn’t 

realize was ours.

Seasonal Harvest

When the snow falls with glitching anger,

they pull on winter clothes, ready themselves. 

You can’t hear dawn breaking. Only that 

sharp snap of shear on apple branches. 

This cold pulls in grayness, unraveling wind. 

Sometimes they count horas, minutos, 

segundos. Sometimes just rows without

end. There’s no telling which is worse.  

Each day worked down to salt. Sure,

there is merciful momentariness. 

Pruning to harvesting. Hail to heat. 

Pain in the back migrating to shoulders. 

They never think back to imaginary borders or cities

paved with gold. They stare at callouses, ask me 

what they should do with no options. Already, 

they know that nothing stops earth’s rotation. Already, 

they know there is no winning. But it is a game.

In three years’ time, which one of them will be

deported. These are those questions

They are never meant as options 

Who will tell me which is worse. 

Ellen Zhang is a physician-writer who has studied under Pulitzer Prize winner Jorie Graham and poet Rosebud Ben-Oni. She has been recognized by the DeBakey Poetry Prize, Dibase Poetry Contest, and as a National Student Poet Semifinalist. Her works appear or are forthcoming in Chestnut Review, The Shore Poetry, Hekton International, and elsewhere.

Instagram: @ln.writes



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