Plain China

Lifted the Ark High Above the Arth

by Paris Gravley · Oberlin College
No Longer In Use: Seclusion and Isolation in Iowa's First and Only Asylum, Amy Nichols · University of Iowa

Voweled suspension above bluing
eyes, he slips along a rope,
taut between the two poles
holding the billowing tent below.
Wind pushes his
vertigo, stumbling toes entwined, he—

he was all like, “please don’t put your hands on that glass.”
and I was like, “this is an aquarium, not a museum, that shark don’t care.”
and he got puffy and was like, “obviously I would know”—

knows he wants to fall. It’s the absinthe
voice inviting him to take a dip;
the water will rise, warm and
and the fish
the fish don’t bite.


Hung low like laundry in south
Georgia, storm clouds brewing punch-
drunk thunder. Even the lights are turning
away. Yellowing barns, bullied
by hurricane bellows, feel the
pull. Mama’s gunna vacuum, she’s—

she’s stupid if she thinks this is tight
I bet she only likes it because that whale
reminds her of her mama. Whatever, I can’t
see anything, I’m going to get—

getting humid and sultry, opening
her mouth to consume. Broken
gates let the water, warm
fall like a tight rope
walker, drunk and
and wet.


Haloed light from a dulling
bulb holds the statued bones
of the Christ against the organ’s
ribs. He’s made of wood, floating
aloft candle fumes and perfumes. A crucified altar
boy blushes with a fallen
bouquet, white petals cascade down the—

Swear to God I didn’t do anything, just
tried to get close enough to see. Thought if
I pushed my face up against that glass, the water
wouldn’t be so dark. I didn’t know the glass was so fragile,
it’s not my fault, I swear, I didn’t break—

broken pattern of the tessellated floor
boards. Crushed velvet gloves
are required for the coffin carriers. Their
shoulders stoop beneath the four
handles, black shoes slip on
petaled paths as they leave, and
and it began to rain

About the Author

Paris Gravley · Oberlin College

Paris Gravley is a junior studying politics and creative writing. Her poem was first published in Oberlin’s Plum Creek Review.

About the Artist

Amy Nichols · University of Iowa

Amy Nichols is a resident artist at The Ceramics Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She received her B.A. in psychology in 2007 before working in the Department of Psychiatry at UIHC for four years. In 2010 she returned to the University of Iowa to study ceramics. She received her ceramics BFA in 2013, where she also focused in jewelry making, printmaking and photography. She lives and creates on a farm with her husband and two cats. No Longer In Use appeared first in earthwords.