“History of Navigation”

Emily Zhang’s “History of Navigation” received third place in the 2015 Glazner Prize for Creative Writing contest, sponsored by SFUAD’s Creative Writing and Literature Department.


On Atlantic Street a girl lies on the street with vultures

in her throat, the moon melting into the eggshell of her eyes


melting into me. I don’t know if she swallowed the sky

or if the sky swallowed her, but she is spilled like a run


on sentence, preserved in past tense and the holy glow

of streetlight. An exercise in forbearance. Two months


after my grandfather said the name of what would kill him,

we spilled salt on our tongues and drank soup too sparse to be


unstill. My uncle drove without a seatbelt swathed across his

shoulders. He drove until he saw a lake that wrapped its fingers


around the sky’s neck and exhaled while the sky inhaled.

Until he saw a bird and tried to catch it, but its wings broke off


when he grazed it, and he closed his palms over its eyes

and pressed, learned that he couldn’t protect anything anymore.


Six years ago a man on the telephone told her to put her hands

between her thighs and squeeze and she told him nothing.


A ritual in reverse. All I know is that we all have the animal want

in our stomachs to float, that they are burning newspapers


on Atlantic Street now. When the universe was first beginning

a bird took a flashlight from a trashcan and dropped it


into a beautiful coffin. In five hundred years someone will unearth

this moment without the girl, in the wicked heat of June,


tucked in concrete like an exhalation. I wish I were

generous enough to spread the girl’s arms across her sides,


so that she is reaching for herself instead of the rhythmic reeling

of the road. A sort of prayer. I wish I were bold enough to consume


time, but I don’t know how to turn a body into a place.


EmilyZhangEmily Zhang is a high school junior from Maryland. Her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Poetry Society of England, the Sierra Nevada Review, and Princeton University. She enjoys watching reality television.