Bank of Emergency

Every day I carry a shoeful of sand to my square office where,
stumbling from edge to edge, I bruise like a baby and
age like one.

If I bring my own supplies, I figure,
I can at least blunt the corners of the reception desk,
deodorize the salmon in the fridge, and
smother the robot at the other end of the line.

Every day I raise my patent-leather loafer and
toast to the sugary sand that coarsens my eardrums and
thaws my bones.

The sand grows stealthily.
A colleague took notice of my beachy floor.
“The cleaning lady is lazy,” she said, frowning.
The sand is an accomplice with words—
both proliferate with the reliability of plants.

The palm tree is rotting on the balcony.
The fruit flies, dressed in filmy black,
have come to the funeral.
My sand saving, every grain of it,
has gone into the burial.

Emergency is a feast that takes years to digest.
To be prepared, we starve ourselves
every day, keeping our minds crystal-clear.

© 2020 by Na Zhong

About the Author

By Na Zhong

Born and raised in China, Na Zhong is a literary reporter, book critic, and the Chinese translator of Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends and Billy O’Callaghan’s The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind. Her essays and short stories can be found in The Millions, Brooklyn Magazine, A Public Space, and more. She is a recipient of the Bette Howland Nonfiction Award and is currently writing a work of autofiction.