Mountain Climbers


Like flightless penguins, we struggle
and flap our stunted wings as we scale
the cliffs. We stretch out our necks;
our beady eyes stare at the ocean spray
seventy feet below. We feel no fear.
We pull at our ligaments, shake out
our feathers. Perched at the edge,
we look for the courage to jump.


A thread of dark separates sea from sky
and I sit on a throne of burnt rock,
touching the color of coldness. Beneath
these hard ledges and jagged needles,
a boy in a yellow raincoat walks on water,
scaling black mossy steps hovering
above white froth. Queen of these cliffs
and heavy, I conduct wind and sight
from shoreline. My hands outreached,
feet curled to stay steady while
the boy plays tag below me.


My body feels warm as this rock,
my blood like a salamander, slick
to run through me and loud in my ears.
I press my cheek to mountain ridges.
This peak so wise its skin’s sun spotted,
evergreen growing from its teeth.
I can hear its hollow rumbling
as the fog rolls in. I can feel
its shiver. I perch on the forehead,
see what it sees, feel its cool, hard
peace. I swear I hear a heartbeat.


When I was young, I’d run rocks
under water to see their secrets.
Their red veins would burn through
dust coatings; black swirls and white
filaments. I’d rub the water into
their membrane, asking beauty
to stay. But these rocks don’t need
my prayers. They show their slices
like the rings around a tree. Sharp
as a scream, they rumble above rapids
and jostle one another. Bathed
in salt splashes, their markings
bear times of drought and plenty,
the yearly migration of birds.
Crack open their copper skin
and underneath, find poetry.


Lucy Zhao is a junior studying Business and Creative Writing at the University of Michigan. She loves spicy food, painting, Moleskine notebooks, perfume, the sound of rain and waves and bonfires. She’s been afflicted with the travel bug for 3 years now, finding herself stretching in the sunshine of Ghana, Kenya, Peru, Guatemala, India, Ethiopia, China, and Switzerland. She plans to work with Base of the Pyramid strategy internationally to increase employment opportunities for those living below the poverty line.