Ellen Zhang

On Pesticides & Onwards

Hear bone, snapping cleanly.
Or maybe just the crack of grape vines.
Last season, shoulders slammed
against trellis. Limb extending the

wrong way. Mi hermano rolled up
his sleeves & left. Only to come back.
No space to leave, nowhere to go to.
We never question if there’s enough

space. Pawn away yearning. Even in
California, the faded memory of
gray slush closes into my throat.
Not unlike those fine coverings of

readying fresh fruit. Transversion into
lungs, alveoli shrivel. Mi hermano rarely
amused these days. Still between
coyotes & moon bright as grapes

juicy ready for taking. I ask,
Have you seen normal ones the size
of crabapples? All the same, he swallows,
Cállate & do your job. The unsaid nestles

between ribcages. Amiga next door,
never blinks. Cradles her limbless child.
Aching knee to back to fingers to scapula.
She says she is going home. Loss clings

to her apron. He perdido. She tells me
in her pauses of having a healthy child who
might live a life that she could not. Line
between hope & tragedy thickens.

Sometimes, I regret. Other days,
I’m too tired for anything.
Tired-tongue speaks of rashes & sores
even though I never ask. Of the attempts to

unclog her lungs, she overflows over
with these same chemicals she washes
from her husband’s clothes. But
cotton & denim can hang & dry.

I still work in the fields. Comfort &
discomfort stretch between my bones.
Caught between teeth, the rise
of salt, dust rinsing without end.

These are things I should not be
grateful for. Sometimes I am.
I’ve started to double down on existence.
Beyond space between tendrils. Hold it.

The Accident

Time wobbles a little, a top
in motion before spillage.
Voices grinding between bone,
parting into new land. Everything
shifts suddenly like spatial
jolting or flashing of aftermath
even before impact.

Leave the yellow tape, chalk markings
so bold, flimsy gray tarp, settling flakes.
Are you okay? Warmth stirs from
the radiator. You will be okay?
Two hours later, you are okay.

When dusk tightens, sinking,
the metronome of normality
resyncs. As remembered or
envisioned or hoped. Traffic
shimmers. Snow into slush into
wet socks into numb damp toes.
Street lights begin to halo.


Ellen Zhang is a student at Harvard Medical School 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 The Shore Poetry, Southward Literary Journal, Hekton International, and elsewhere.