Plain China

February 2017

Annunciation

Eleanor Griggs · Grinnell College

A week after my mother’s funeral, I decided to stay in Wyoming. It seemed like a big decision, but I made it for small reasons. I was hideously menopausal at the time and the idea of going back to an Atlanta summer was unbearable. Furthermore, I had just broken up with my most recent boyfriend, a depressingly platonic man who played the French Horn in the symphony. His name was Robert and our courtship was so mildly pleasant I had to really work to convince myself that after forty-seven years I’d found the one. Finally, I dreaded going back to my friends, all married and desperate to invite me for drinks so they could bitch about their teenaged daughters. I knew that they’d offer sympathy, comfort, and sage advise about losing a mother, and I still hated that old bitch too much to listen.

Where I Live Now

Jennifer Kronmiller · Northeastern College

the mug in the sink is full of commas toe nail clippings and sunflower shells we pile the garbage up until it wilts three dumpster barrel toothed lumbering alleyways i could sleep here if i remembered to shut the goddamn window.

Chicken Marsala with Hawaiian Black Lava Sea Salt Roasted Potatoes

Rachael Allen · Bowdoin College

Preview: This recipe will taste interesting. Woodsy and starchy and so heavy it will make you feel bloated. More notably, its title will impress your guests.

There Are No Bells Here

Ellen Webre · Chapman University

I am waiting by tendrils of lightning, electric voices fallen silent because you are busy, and have only sent a ghost of yourself to keep me company.

Still Life with a Jar of Honey, Left Open on the Kitchen Table

Emily Bergmann · Wheaton College

the strange room I occupy here, landlord, is simply mine to rent. collapsed on the floor, silent and raving I wonder if you will stir and creek down the stairs. I wonder if it would please you to see me this way. stung, foolish to forget that honey comes from bees.

Dinner at the Qureshis

Kimberly Kemler · University of Florida

Last week, when Deb asked me to go to dinner with the Qureshis—the Qureshis are students at the University where Deb teaches—when Deb asked me about going to dinner at the Qureshis, we were right in the middle of something. You know, like I had my hand on her leg, and when her hair fell in front of her eyes she didn’t even push it behind her ear like she usually does when she’s serious about something, so I didn’t think anything of it. After, as she was re-clasping her bra and I was still untangling my jeans from the duvet, she said something like does Thursday work for you? and I didn’t even know what she was talking about anymore.

Synesthesia and You

Charnell Peters · Taylor University

I hang from the last brick of August, the cold is tolling. I didn't hear you, but I remember your summer breath, and you still feel like the softest blue behind my eyes.

Things You Shouldn't Say

Amy Kisner · Columbia College

I hate my sister’s laugh. Laugh isn’t really even the right word for it, not really. I guess you could call it a cackle. Or a maniacal chortle? I hear it most often in the middle of the night, when the whole house is silent. Then, out of the silence comes the insane symphony of delirium. I don’t know what she’s laughing about, but it must be funnier than anything I’ve ever known. Her lips are always cracked, the corners of her mouth split open from too wide a smile.

Annunciation

Eleanor Griggs · Grinnell College

A week after my mother’s funeral, I decided to stay in Wyoming. It seemed like a big decision, but I made it for small reasons. I was hideously menopausal at the time and the idea of going back to an Atlanta summer was unbearable. Furthermore, I had just broken up with my most recent boyfriend, a depressingly platonic man who played the French Horn in the symphony. His name was Robert and our courtship was so mildly pleasant I had to really work to convince myself that after forty-seven years I’d found the one. Finally, I dreaded going back to my friends, all married and desperate to invite me for drinks so they could bitch about their teenaged daughters. I knew that they’d offer sympathy, comfort, and sage advise about losing a mother, and I still hated that old bitch too much to listen.

Where I Live Now

Jennifer Kronmiller · Northeastern College

the mug in the sink is full of commas toe nail clippings and sunflower shells we pile the garbage up until it wilts three dumpster barrel toothed lumbering alleyways i could sleep here if i remembered to shut the goddamn window.

Chicken Marsala with Hawaiian Black Lava Sea Salt Roasted Potatoes

Rachael Allen · Bowdoin College

Preview: This recipe will taste interesting. Woodsy and starchy and so heavy it will make you feel bloated. More notably, its title will impress your guests.

There Are No Bells Here

Ellen Webre · Chapman University

I am waiting by tendrils of lightning, electric voices fallen silent because you are busy, and have only sent a ghost of yourself to keep me company.

Still Life with a Jar of Honey, Left Open on the Kitchen Table

Emily Bergmann · Wheaton College

the strange room I occupy here, landlord, is simply mine to rent. collapsed on the floor, silent and raving I wonder if you will stir and creek down the stairs. I wonder if it would please you to see me this way. stung, foolish to forget that honey comes from bees.

Dinner at the Qureshis

Kimberly Kemler · University of Florida

Last week, when Deb asked me to go to dinner with the Qureshis—the Qureshis are students at the University where Deb teaches—when Deb asked me about going to dinner at the Qureshis, we were right in the middle of something. You know, like I had my hand on her leg, and when her hair fell in front of her eyes she didn’t even push it behind her ear like she usually does when she’s serious about something, so I didn’t think anything of it. After, as she was re-clasping her bra and I was still untangling my jeans from the duvet, she said something like does Thursday work for you? and I didn’t even know what she was talking about anymore.

Synesthesia and You

Charnell Peters · Taylor University

I hang from the last brick of August, the cold is tolling. I didn't hear you, but I remember your summer breath, and you still feel like the softest blue behind my eyes.

Things You Shouldn't Say

Amy Kisner · Columbia College

I hate my sister’s laugh. Laugh isn’t really even the right word for it, not really. I guess you could call it a cackle. Or a maniacal chortle? I hear it most often in the middle of the night, when the whole house is silent. Then, out of the silence comes the insane symphony of delirium. I don’t know what she’s laughing about, but it must be funnier than anything I’ve ever known. Her lips are always cracked, the corners of her mouth split open from too wide a smile.