plain china: best undergraduate writing

Volume One : Issue Two

The Well-Spoken Man


by Adrienne Raphel

Carp, Coyote, Chicken by Nicole Simpkins Carp, Coyote, Chicken by Nicole Simpkins

Once upon a time the well-spoken man finds
a mermaid, slick on the sand like an oil spill,
slippery and squinting against the sun.
He would like her tongue.

There is an epidemic of languages
and the well-spoken man collects them when they
die. He pins the tongues like moths in glass boxes.
He labels each one.

Etymology and entomology
are one and the same to the well-spoken man.
The tongues are like orange peels when oranges
are out of season.

Air swells in the mermaid’s throat like a thorny
blowfish, blotting and choking a voice made for
water. Her hands flail like frenzied locusts
at the well-spoken man.

This is a common gesture in languages,
and the well-spoken man makes a note of it.
He parts his slick hair with an accent grave,
and cuts out her tongue.

About the Author


Adrienne Raphel

Princeton University

Adrienne Raphel, a senior at Princeton University, hails from St. Johnsbury, Vermont. An English and creative writing major, she has been actively involved with Princeton's literary scene both in and out of the classroom. She is currently working on a collection of poetry for her senior thesis. Adrienne also sings with Princeton's concert choir, runs, and bakes cookies for an on-campus cafe. She hopes to do postgraduate work in English literature and creative writing.