Poetry by Abbey Zhu

In addition to earning Scholastic Art & Writing Regional Gold Key recognition, work by Abbey Zhu ’18 has been published in three national print magazines: Susquehanna University’s Apprentice Writer (“Ground Zero” Fall 2016, Vol. 34), Cicada Magazine (“Impediments” September/October 2016 issue) and Teen Ink (“It Can’t Be: a Villanelle” September 2016 issue). Enjoy this beautiful work.

“Ground Zero” after “Departure” by Carolyn Forché

I leave it behind, the roar
of an airplane piercing the sky
echoing into nothingness, a cold
alienation as when land disappears
beneath me and the windows
brush the clouds, where the ghosts
of my past lurk and drift for
a visit. The person sitting
next to me has ear buds
in, and I want to ask
if ghosts listen to music
to hide from their realities
as much as I do mine.
Row after row of straight-
backed seats, luggage stowed
in the overhead, faces that
fade in and out of existence–
I will be a different person
when I land. Here is the soil
of your homeland,
the scent of your best friend’s detergent,
the last breath of goodbye
the only thing you’ll have left.
I am the one you will all
forget, shrinking and shriveling
into a wilted flower, the death
of something already gone.


My backpack is the checkered kind.
It’s three shades of purple,
black and thundercloud grey,
and the white squares have faded into
a dusty cotton color.
I’ve had this backpack for three years,
and none of the zippers have broken yet.

This year, my backpack failed me.
It wasn’t too small or too big, in fact
it should’ve been the perfect size.
Minimal textbooks, smaller notebooks–
my mom even got me a lighter laptop.
The zippers are still intact and
there aren’t any tears in the fabric.

But my backpack encloses my
tear splattered lined paper,
blue lines blurring into a
three-year old’s splatter paint canvas.
Tiny seas of bright blue lie on
a creamy backdrop tainted
by graphite squiggles.

My backpack holds my crinkled eyebrows,
pulled hair, downturned lips,
four to five-hours of sleep.
It watches as uncontrollable
panic locks my body,
and gasps for air give me nothing but

“It Can’t Be: a Villanelle”

She had a fear of flying –
of looking down and having nothing to ground
her feet on.
He had a fear of falling –

of feeling his stomach dropping, limbs flailing,
then suddenly, gone.
She had a fear of flying,

hated the queasiness of plummeting
when the plane hit a pocket of air gone wrong.
He had a fear of falling

past everything he ever stood for, and her playing
him as a pawn.
But she had a fear of flying,

needed someone to keep her from crying,
because he didn’t stay until dawn.
He had a fear of falling,

and never heard her begging
for him to give her one last song.
She had a fear of flying
but he had a fear of falling.

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