plain china: best undergraduate writing

Volume One : Issue One


by Krystin Gollihue

Untitled by Christine Musket Untitled by Christie Musket

As we sat on a bench in St. Peter’s Basilica,
our skin turned a shade and then another
and the western sunlight washed over the marble floors,
and we laughed at La Pietà—
as if we had known our own sons,
as if we had loved them.

Outside, the Pope blessed every bit of my anatomy
(even the dark places)
while I sucked on a glass bottleneck
to see if it would break in my mouth,
and I listened to the bodies closing in around me,
wondering if that rhythmic humming
was the unbuttoning of the Virgin Mary’s wedding dress,
or simply some mumbled prayer for forgiveness.

Do you remember how long we stayed in the Square,
before running beneath the statue of Jesus,
letting the smoke drift above us?
His nose left perpetually turned upwards,
nostrils flared in stone, petrified lips curled to one side.

Seven days in that place where the cobblestone street
sloped with the earth—until one morning it was empty,
and we felt something very large missing from our short lives—
no one to laugh at, no one to crucify.

And the dead skin from our sunburns dropped about our ankles,
layer over layer crossing in the silent summer breeze,
leaving us tanned and wondering.

About the Author

Krystin Gollihue

University of Chicago

Krystin Gollihue is from the coast of North Carolina but studies literature on the coast of Lake Michigan at the University of Chicago. She has been writing poetry since her discovery of bad journalism in the ninth grade.