Heat swelling against my skin like
gasoline rainbows in crevices of dirt
roads. Remnants of home
seep through cotton.
Divided, multiplying geometric fields,
steady, simple and pulsating
like the rise and fall of workers
amid rice hulls again and again.
Falling for the last time to
rise, erection of modern civilization
evenly scraping the sky.
Shimmering, savory aroma of
cumin, roast meat, heaviness of rice
irresistible spiciness beckoning forth
traditional hunger; the grumbling
of a stomach is the same in every language.
My belly assuring me that
there is nothing China does not have.
Food is universal in every tongue as
utensils dip in and out,
mouth inhaling in and in,
belly growing out and out.
Lull of mandarin floats to
wrap around my body in
the middle of hazy, honey June.
My breath slowly becoming tinged
with the strength of green tea.
Here, night leeches color from the sky,
vibration, frequency, in my nerves,
culture cramped in my collarbones.
Ellen Zhang is a physician-writer who has studied under Pulitzer Prize winner Jorie Graham, poet Rosebud Ben-Oni, and poet Josh Bell. She has been recognized by the 2022 DeBakey Poetry Prize, 2022 Dibase Poetry Contest, and as 2019 National Student Poet Semifinalist. Her works appear or are forthcoming in Rappahannock Review, COUNTERCLOCK journal, Hekton International, and elsewhere. She received a BA in Integrative Biology from Harvard College in 2019.