Plain China

On the First Day (March 15, 1990)

by Ben Alfaro · University of Miami
Untitled, Elise Mortensen · Brown/ RISD

Vinnie hit a double-double. Zeke knocked down 18.

Bill Laimbeer’s name sprawled across a news ticker.


The regional broadcast shored my mother homebound.

Her hand fanned around the garden of a once gravid belly,


the left, rocking a plastic bassinet in the backseat. Stilled

in gridlock of headlights snaking down suburban offramp.


The Boys were a coterie of jaw rattlers. Codified in cloak

of baseline brawn. Motley brawlers barking at Chicago wind.


My first hero was the knifing ridge of Rick Mahorn’s elbow

deep in paint, paddling lawless down scuffed hardtop.


The Palace, newly throned; before it became a jungle.

The radio dialed to a cool hum, just above a whisper.


Born to a lullaby bouncing between static breaks.

Her abdomen, writhing back into a single body.

About the Author

Ben Alfaro · University of Miami

Recent graduate Benjamin Alfaro is a teaching artist and organizer from Detroit. He is the author of Home Court (Red Beard Press, 2014) and his writing has been widely published. He is the Youth Leadership Coordinator and a Writer-in-Residence with InsideOut Literary Arts Project.

About the Artist

Elise Mortensen · Brown/ RISD

Elise Mortensen graduated from the Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design dual degree program. Her work focuses on how physical spaces provide a structure within which social views are developed—specifically, how issues of class, privilege, and power are reproduced through architecture and the spatial allocation of resources. Her piece first appeared in Clerestory.