Plain China


by Samuel Diener · University of California, Berkeley
Map of the North Arm,, Maura O'Brien · Princeton University

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

Gray wind litters it with leaves,

the refuse and the jetsam of the forest;

cat’s-paw footsteps stir debris,

leave dried-mud traces of their forays

on dented sheets of steel left here

among the willow trees.


Light and shadows play on leather and on wood;

on a broken pair of flower-print sunglasses,

the air-vent, shattered by her feet,

both deep and shallow scratches

and little burns of ancient matches

from cigarettes before he met her.


Once-spinning wheels are now a home for bees,

buzzing past the aging rubber

and the brand-new brakes

he bought for life’s outtakes

and those close calls that terrified her.


Inside, air is silent, hushes echoes,

edges of their moments dampened

by leather and by steel: soft foam

rubber bulging from the seams

of torn front seats.

About the Author

Samuel Diener · University of California, Berkeley

Samuel Diener grew up in New Hampshire and went West, working as a cook in Alaska and northern California for several years. Now he studies English and Spanish at the University of California, Berkeley, writing and performing poetry in his spare time. His poem first appeared in UC-Berkeley’s literary journal, CLAM.


About the Artist

Maura O'Brien · Princeton University

Maura O’Brien majored in fine arts at Princeton. Her artwork derives from the wildernesses of Northern Minnesota and Canada, where she has canoed for many years. She currently lives and paints in Minneapolis. Her piece first appeared in Princeton’s journal, the Nassau Literary Review.