Grieving Prayers

by Ellen Zhang

His little hands laced and zippered up

around my collarbones

whispering to me that he wanted to be

with me and not be afraid

because every night he dreams

in black and white about

monsters and bombs

a bridge between mere dreams

and harsh reality


I’m sorry I told you to

be a man and not cry over nightmares

I’m sorry I yelled at you

for spilling the cranberry juice on the carpet

I’m sorry I scolded you to

stop running around the house


I’m not terrified because there’s nothing left

Everything’s in color when flames spread

Your rose-bud mouth parts like the red sea

Too late to pray like this on my knees

The shrapnel penetrated before shrieks were heard

Illusions of safety dulled and blurred


I wish you’d cry than

me ululate over wounds across your chest

I’d rather it be cranberry juice

than blood that smears the ground

Dear, stand, I beg you

run, jump, skip anywhere you wish


Sternum too brittle to cage my agony when

war is the only religion we all believe in

Ellen Zhang is a Sophomore at Harvard University. She has been published in The Albion Review, Teen Ink, Creative Kids, Cuckoo Quarterly, Tuesday Magazine, other magazines. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Prescriptions, a semesterly Harvard publication integrating medicine and humanities. In addition, Ellen has received national recognition from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.