plain china: best undergraduate writing

Volume One : Issue Two

Dust Storm Song


by Phyllis Heitjan

Flash Fire by Elliot Cash Flash Fire by Elliot Cash

I got dust in my hair
It blew right up out of the ground in a desert second
Now when I shake my head
I make a rattlesnake sound
You can hear me from Tucson
Now when I shake my head
My shirt fills with sand
Collecting in my collarbones
And between my breasts
My scalp is raw,
And my hands,
But my face has been scraped smooth
Except for one long groove
Worn into my tender temple

I got dust in my eyes
So I wear them red like an angry man
My eyelids hold the grains like lovers
And coat them steadily with tears
Until they are swollen pearls,
Which I pluck and give to strangers

My darling, I got dust in my mouth
And it shattered all my words
My teeth eroded to blunt sculpture
My tongue got all cut up in the crossfire
I do nothing these days but spit little pings
In my pretty copper pail
In the single room
Where you found me more beautiful
Than ten thousand miles of bronze, womanly dunes

About the Author


Phyllis Heitjan

Princeton University

Phyllis Heitjan is a junior at Princeton, where she studies Spanish literature and culture, as well as translation, mostly at odd hours of the night and very early mornings. She thanks her parents for books, for showing her the desert, and for every act of encouragement. She thanks the rest of the world for being full of lessons.