national anthology of the best undergraduate writing 2014


Ian Burnette  • 
Adroit Journal

We used to play pirates
in an empty field


near my uncle’s house,
the unshy earth


filling our hands
with oil beetles


and the odd penny
spoon—as if she


could resent us
for pulling thorns


from her shoulder.




Then there was the year
the ocean dried,


an oilman’s angry
turbo diesel scraping


the barnacled road
that cleaved the farm


into calcium dust,
his pitch hair


and the cold metal pen
in my uncle’s hand—


for the lease of the land,
he was promised


yellow gold, a hardy
flower called rapeseed


with canola in its veins.




By spring, bright bud
rucked our field


like a floodlight, a beam
the color of house clams


or razor flies. Stalks
ate past my uncle’s


hungry waist and sucked
the land jaundice


with open mouths,
until three boys from town


took a quiet girl into
the belly of our field


and made her open up.