Plain China

March 2017

She Burns

Taylor Walworth · Columbia College

It’s my job to stand guard while Moira smokes. It’s a job I take very seriously, not just because we’re teenagers smoking on school property, but because we’re teenagers smoking on church property, which I imagine the Sisters will see as the more damning sin of the two if we’re ever caught.

Just Read

Rebecca Lambright · University of Pennsylvania

When the power goes out, empty the refrigerator and put the perishables in a cooler full of ice. Assume that the bills weren’t paid and don’t ask questions. Light candles and do not speak. Time your showers, keep them short, ignore that they’re cold. When there isn’t enough food for everyone some nights, drink water to silence the hunger. Do your homework, go to bed. Take the foreclosure letters from the mail, put them in Dad’s briefcase, pretend you didn’t see them. When Mom is sad, hide the books. When Mom looks tired, hide the books. When Mom gets angry, hide the books, every time. You hide them because you know that she’ll look for them. Because you know that there is no money, but Dad bought them anyway. For you, he says. And once everything is calm again, read.

To The Lesser Knot

Cyndee Devereaux · University of Florida

For months, she wrote only of estuaries, which is how I knew she was leaving.

Red Rock Township, c. 1850

Nathan Kooker · University of Iowa

Before she was drowned in forty feet of silt and squalid water Red Rock was a post for river rats meandered up the muddy Des Moines

Blue Glass

Audrey Spensley · Princeton University

Yesterday your mother mailed you nine of your baby teeth wrapped in plastic, no return address. I named you. Not your father. She kept one molar for her back pocket.

Swimming Lessons

Rose Wunrout · Swarthmore College

I remember, last December, gasping under a vast dark sky, thinking I cannot go on like fish. I remember, in biology, pumping a sheep’s lung full of water until it burst. What do you do when you try to sustain yourself on someone who reminds you of an absence of air?

The Creature of Caido Bay

Corwynn Madrone · Humboldt State University

It began somewhere along the creek, where the bunch of us were playing around, each of us 13 or 14 years old, far too old to be doing this sort of thing. Still, we were having fun, pretending to be pirates and buccaneers as we made our way further along the stream that led away from the bay, through the trees and rocks that led us like a labyrinth, deeper into the imagination’s snare.

Inlet at Kabutojima

Emily Rosello Mercurio · Wheaton College

From the river something is stirring in a Pacific ultrablue, an edgeless ripple or a water bomb where the sea sinks into violet.

She Burns

Taylor Walworth · Columbia College

It’s my job to stand guard while Moira smokes. It’s a job I take very seriously, not just because we’re teenagers smoking on school property, but because we’re teenagers smoking on church property, which I imagine the Sisters will see as the more damning sin of the two if we’re ever caught.

Just Read

Rebecca Lambright · University of Pennsylvania

When the power goes out, empty the refrigerator and put the perishables in a cooler full of ice. Assume that the bills weren’t paid and don’t ask questions. Light candles and do not speak. Time your showers, keep them short, ignore that they’re cold. When there isn’t enough food for everyone some nights, drink water to silence the hunger. Do your homework, go to bed. Take the foreclosure letters from the mail, put them in Dad’s briefcase, pretend you didn’t see them. When Mom is sad, hide the books. When Mom looks tired, hide the books. When Mom gets angry, hide the books, every time. You hide them because you know that she’ll look for them. Because you know that there is no money, but Dad bought them anyway. For you, he says. And once everything is calm again, read.

To The Lesser Knot

Cyndee Devereaux · University of Florida

For months, she wrote only of estuaries, which is how I knew she was leaving.

Red Rock Township, c. 1850

Nathan Kooker · University of Iowa

Before she was drowned in forty feet of silt and squalid water Red Rock was a post for river rats meandered up the muddy Des Moines

Blue Glass

Audrey Spensley · Princeton University

Yesterday your mother mailed you nine of your baby teeth wrapped in plastic, no return address. I named you. Not your father. She kept one molar for her back pocket.

Swimming Lessons

Rose Wunrout · Swarthmore College

I remember, last December, gasping under a vast dark sky, thinking I cannot go on like fish. I remember, in biology, pumping a sheep’s lung full of water until it burst. What do you do when you try to sustain yourself on someone who reminds you of an absence of air?

The Creature of Caido Bay

Corwynn Madrone · Humboldt State University

It began somewhere along the creek, where the bunch of us were playing around, each of us 13 or 14 years old, far too old to be doing this sort of thing. Still, we were having fun, pretending to be pirates and buccaneers as we made our way further along the stream that led away from the bay, through the trees and rocks that led us like a labyrinth, deeper into the imagination’s snare.

Inlet at Kabutojima

Emily Rosello Mercurio · Wheaton College

From the river something is stirring in a Pacific ultrablue, an edgeless ripple or a water bomb where the sea sinks into violet.