Plain China

Poetry

Leaving Home

Carol McCArthy · University of Iowa

like paper cuts behind my eyelids

Autumn Passover

Sierra Blackwell · Loyola University

Autumn shuns Naigara Falls; it always has. The cold water has always been cold, The bare trees have always seemed bare

Devotions

Shannon Hearn · University of Conneticuit

For the daughter of someone who loves, it was always easier to break bread

Birdshot

Michal Liebowitz · Stanford University

After we've shot the swallows from the sky I tell you of the coast you've forgotten, memories turned legend, migrating inwards.

Texas Spiral

Henry Birdsey · Bard College

I remember the motorcycle gang At White Sands— They pawed the dust Searching for something they couldn’t yet speak of In the data fields of Western Texas

Postcard

Allie Griffith · University of Notre Dame

Where I am is a place Where lemon water tributaries Empty into ethylamine oceans.

Hurricane Katrina Had Left the Door Open for the Boys

Ryan Murphy · Oberlin College

He fed us silver in the attic again.

Dancing to Death

Forest Balderson · Eckerd College

Shortly after my dad shot and killed himself I visited my mom at the Town Tavern. She looked like a vampire, drained, rejecting life-giving blood from its only son.

Meditation at St. Thomas of Aquinas

Daniela Childers · Dartmouth College

Kneeling, I look up at Christ strung up on wires slowly swinging over the head of the priest the center of attention, it's almost garish.

On the First Day (March 15, 1990)

Ben Alfaro · University of Miami

Vinnie hit a double-double. Zeke knocked down 18. Bill Laimbeer’s name sprawled across a news ticker.

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Leaving Home

Carol McCArthy · University of Iowa

like paper cuts behind my eyelids

Autumn Passover

Sierra Blackwell · Loyola University

Autumn shuns Naigara Falls; it always has. The cold water has always been cold, The bare trees have always seemed bare

Devotions

Shannon Hearn · University of Conneticuit

For the daughter of someone who loves, it was always easier to break bread

Birdshot

Michal Liebowitz · Stanford University

After we've shot the swallows from the sky I tell you of the coast you've forgotten, memories turned legend, migrating inwards.

Texas Spiral

Henry Birdsey · Bard College

I remember the motorcycle gang At White Sands— They pawed the dust Searching for something they couldn’t yet speak of In the data fields of Western Texas

Postcard

Allie Griffith · University of Notre Dame

Where I am is a place Where lemon water tributaries Empty into ethylamine oceans.

Hurricane Katrina Had Left the Door Open for the Boys

Ryan Murphy · Oberlin College

He fed us silver in the attic again.

Dancing to Death

Forest Balderson · Eckerd College

Shortly after my dad shot and killed himself I visited my mom at the Town Tavern. She looked like a vampire, drained, rejecting life-giving blood from its only son.

Meditation at St. Thomas of Aquinas

Daniela Childers · Dartmouth College

Kneeling, I look up at Christ strung up on wires slowly swinging over the head of the priest the center of attention, it's almost garish.

On the First Day (March 15, 1990)

Ben Alfaro · University of Miami

Vinnie hit a double-double. Zeke knocked down 18. Bill Laimbeer’s name sprawled across a news ticker.

This Is All I Know

Morgan Thomas · University of Florida

With practice, two people can sleep in a single bed without touching. New-car-scented candles only cost two dollars a pop if you buy in bulk from the manufacturer.

Motionless

Samuel Diener · University of California, Berkeley

That car hasn’t moved since the day he left.

Once the Ground

Mary Alice Stewart · Bennington College

Once the ground. Once the ground, I opened. O Sillies, once the ground & its metal beast of quick light.

Symplocarpus

Carolyn Decker · Wheaton College

New love came early this year a skunk cabbage in the snow

Skin and Scale

Caroline Klidonas · Elon University

My sister is small, painting her arms with washable tattoos when she tells me a fish’s body is slick to the touch, that some eat parasites, dead skin

Conquering Grounds

Jessica Fuquay · Rice University · Poetry Prize Winner

All our children learn. The uprooted will sing of the root’s tearing.

Mr. Rococo in Prague

Varun Nayar · Grinnell College

Now of course, it is the fractured, roadside music you remember most.

Re: Backstroke

Michaela Cowgill · American University

A boy falls into the Northwood lake.

Eight-Ball

Liz Purvis · Elon University

My father taught me how to level a pool cue across the bridge of my hand

Harvests

Ian Burnette · Adroit Journal

We used to play pirates in an empty field

Granny Remembers the Chicago Blizzard of '67

Cheswayo Gabriel Mphanza · Middlebury College · Honorable Mention in Poetry

Hell, I been cold before. Black folk always been cold

I Love You Skinny Leaf

Parke Haskell · Bennington College

You tried to get me wet for thirty months—I was too busy not eating to notice. Did you know— this page was once a humming tree?

Lake Mendota, WI

Clare Mao · Grinnell College

Open water at dawn, and I can think of nothing else but you.

"Tell Me Why" performed as a modified pecha kucha

Paolo Yumol · Oberlin College

It all has to come from somewhere; the manhole vapor, the broken melodies, the shambling vagrants pulled out of the dark like knotted ribbons from a magician’s cloak.

Penobscot

Drew Dean · Susquehanna University · Honorable Mention in Poetry

The birch crescent passes the sea’s fingertip into Belfast Bay, an eddy of pitch pine and flotsam.

Dream 737

Molly McGinnis · American University

We are standing on a street in Manhattan. The traffic light: cinched red lips.

Hacking Dreyfuss

Grayling Bauer · Bard College

BIRTH is a SEVERE LIMITATION

teaching goldfish how to breathe

Xandria Phillips · Oberlin COllege

vets have successfully installed frog lungs into a goldfish/ I read this news on a blog

Marie Elaine

Christine Guaragno · Susquehanna University

The first time Marie Elaine was struck by lightning, she was already married to ChaCha. She was pulling his service shirts from the line, her fingers holding onto the clothespins like beads of her rosary.

Farm Boys

Talin Tahajian · University of Cambridge

I find you swimming, cheeks flushed

Walker Evans' Lucille

Christina Degenaars · Boston College · Honorable Mention in Poetry

The child in the photograph has little more than a straw hat to halo her cold ears. She’s maybe ten, perhaps older, snared in a snapshot that hides years from view.

Everyone I Love at a Gas Station in Utah

Paris Gravley · Oberlin College

Two seats wide, Ham Hands eats a foot-long at the corner table.

On The Train Home

Varun Nayar · Grinnell College

1944: Badi Nani packs her children into four decrepit navy-blue duffle bags strapped to a train running down from Karachi to Dilli.

The Midlife Crisis

Tiffany Wong · American University

And I wonder who Held his hand as ink touched skin

Hookey

Jacob Oet · Swarthmore College

The porcupine and I skip class to sail to America.

Storm Season

Helen Spica · Boston College

She remembers the storm that picked up the neighbor’s boy

It's Election Night

Itai Thaler · Tufts University

And the air tastes like smoke and glazed doughnuts and you could suck it in ’til you’re sick

Motherland

Maya Osbourne · Bard College · Honorable Mention in Poetry

She—a dead mango seed, a burnt redemption song

Nesting

Meg Pendoley · Tufts University

Why do the sparrows choose the house with the rotting roof?

Pinky

Emily Geris · Macalester

Grandma drove with shade-tolerant plants in her car to fill the beds of mulch sulking in our yard.

On Self-Immolation

Susannah Sharpless · Princeton University

she called in from the highlands refused a secret silence her words wildfire against poppy and stone:

Lifted the Ark High Above the Arth

Paris Gravley · Oberlin College

Voweled suspension above bluing eyes, he slips along a rope, taut between the two poles holding the billowing tent below.

Split Linen

Luke Patterson · University of Houston · Poetry Prize Winner

The rip in my sheet grew until it stretched the length of the bed; its edges curled back, spreading in the middle to reveal stained mattress.

Between Two Cars

Vera Carothers · Brown University

My mom with her nightly TV vigil and my dad with his artisanal bowls meet once in a railway car

Miriam's Song

Bailey Spencer · Boston College

Named bitter, I reach for sycamore, thirst for fig sugar and honey wine

Three Months Sober

Charles McCory · The University of Mississippi

Today the protection of this plastic chip I took at the meeting with a hug and a God bless from— well I shouldn’t say her name— who’s been sober longer than I’ve been breathing and keeps coming back expires.

Lunar Sonnet

Canese Jarboe · Pittsburg State University

There will only be one this month, bloated and pale like leftover rib bones on the plate after you ate the half-rack at Lucky Luke’s.

monkeys consecrated to the moon

Kate Powell · Bennington College

in the tops of trees they peeled long straws and pushed them needlewise through the opal jelly of cyprian wedding night

of women and gods (of learning how to pray)

Lily Jamaludin · Grinell College

The first verse I memorize I repeat over and over in my head for days My tongue tripping over the letters and sounds until they become mine.

Keeping House

Madeline Thieringer · College of Charleston

Calendula, beeswax, jingle shells. The tinge of harmonica swells that find the blues, over-watered geranium leaves.

Missouri Shells

Clara Lee · University of Minnesota · Honorable Mention in Poetry

On October blacktop poured over limestone, the hard ghost of an inland sea, farmland, then floodplains now emptied by whistle,

The Grocery Store

Geo Gomez · Grinnell College

My grandmother prays to Santa Guadalupe, the one embalmed on her nightstand candle.

Saint Anthony (the keeper of lost things)

Mollyhall Seeley · New York University

Saint Anthony mostly goes by El Capitán. I call him patroncito because it drives him crazy (he’s a terrible racist). Usually he won’t see me because he says that I don’t lose things, I ignore them.

Iron in the Well Water

Carolyn Decker · Wheaton College

Loving you is stepping through ice, that first moment in a scalding shower, when I curve my spine against the impulse to shiver.

Shark Fishing on Acid

Danny Macdonald · Tufts University

there are cliffs underwater and if you hold a rock you can sink off of them it is like intentional drowning but you can let go before you get to the bottom

Welcome

Robert Miller · St. Olaf College · Honorable Mention in Poetry

to the public museum of road kill

The Creator

Melissa Robert · Tufts University

Sun beats through the blinds this morning, awoken like a puppet— Today I finish it.

Healing

Elizabeth Burdette · College of Charleston

A man had written head on his forehead, and hand on each hand, and foot on each foot.

On the Nights My Lover Dreams of Drowning

Amber Rambharose · University of Cincinnati

I think about the bullet in his wrist that still floats between radius and ulna.

Dairylide

Brittany Kleinschnitz · Bennington College

A cow lies in a paddock, a dead eucalyptus.

Payasam

Anjana Krishnamurthy · University of California, Berkeley

Javvarisi, sweet pearls of childhood, floating in a sea of elaichi

Boy

Da'Shawn Mosley · University of Chicago

Witness the three guys march right in and take what they want, hold my aunt inside her bedroom and close the door.

About Love,

Hannah Jones · Florida State University

my grandmother knew it all.

Proprioception

Frances Wang · Dartmouth College

They say that dogs are soulless. Mine sleeps on his side and skitters after rabbits

Stripped, She Said

Anne Delatte · Louisiana State University

you have stripped me down to my tongue root she said

A Trout

Jackson Rollings · Bard College · Honorable Mention in Poetry

After an hour of steely sky the locals call night, we’re back on the rapids fishing whorls for sockeyes, but reel in only dollies.

Gull Throat

Noor Al-Sammarai · University of California, Berkeley

What's it mean, to sit?

This Poem is Not About the Snail (Shablul)

Jocelyn Hawley · Swarthmore College

but if it were I would tell you how they right themselves by means of opercula fastened to their feet (foot).

Second Kill

Lilly McGee · American University

Cain’s kiss; the drowned. Family submerged. A photo blurred by stillwater.

Incident on Route 46

Doreen St. Félix · Brown University

In a poorly upholstered driving seat, middle age is approaching a quiet, coughing woman much faster than it is her husband because she is a quiet and coughing woman.

Winter Poem

J. Phillip Reed · University of Miami

Think of worst. Think of worry & woolen washer cycles.

The Lost Language of Longing, or Two Women Walk into a Bar

Hannah Aizenman · University of Pittsburgh · Honorable Mention in Poetry

Two women walk into a bar; they are Lilith and Lot’s wife and they are lonesome tonight.

It's My Turn, Frank O'Hara

David Scofield · Brown University

From a young age I was naïve enough to know I was a genius.

Cape

Erica Hauswald · Grinnell College

Even the air is ice- ridden.

Playing House

Lauren Parker · University of Houston

The screaming makes her break a dish a white ceramic plate with black scuffmarks

If She Remembers

Kelly Bates · Columbia College Chicago

She took too much chili cheese dip. And my Girl Scout friend Katie Johnson, with a too thick, bland brown bob, told me to tell her that she was taking too much.

Two Scars

James Parkington · Boston College

When I say she was something else, I mean that she reminded me of a circus.

Extra American

Alex Cashman · University of Miami

Let the sand settle in your lungs like unwanted guests in your living room, drinking all your red wine and eating all your cheese

An Afternoon at the Mütter Museum for Anatomical Anomalies

Sierra Eckert · Swarthmore COllege

Soap woman lives here, shares a room with wax dolls, giants, dwarves.

Stones for Guppies

Toshi Casey · American River College

Along the creek, July clung to our limbs with clover-twined snapdragons.

Capgras Syndrome

Rebecca Rothfeld · Dartmouth College

One day you were no longer you. You’d swallowed yourself in the deep of your sleep and escaped through a door in the side of your gut.

At the Edge

Colorado College · · Honorable Mention in Poetry

Everything other than the present is terrifying.

god for me

Courtney Bush · New York University

is the way my grandfather thinks about jesus believes until it’s just called knowing like science or directions

Augustus

Jordan Peterson · Simmons College

For three days, the city has been on fire.

A National Tragedy

Olivia Weissblum · Pomona College

On the day the sky wept blood over Texas we stood together a little apart

Hicksville

Laura Creste · Bennington College

An hour west toward the beginning of Long Island we drive to a party in Hicksville. We pass a series of one-story houses. Airplanes, coming or going, chase the birds from the sky.

Nocturnal: A Series of Haiku

Kate Garnett · University of Houston

I. She is Becoming something nocturnal. Watch as she teethes on moondark. She is going, gone.

Nail Polish

Wyatt McMurry · Eckerd College · Poetry Prize Winner

His nails weren’t coral but candy cane red cadillac and dark—satin lining of my mother’s purse, brains of a crushed watermelon or even the latex guts splashed over the rocks in Tremors after Kevin Bacon tricks the worm monster into falling off a cliff.