plain china: best undergraduate writing

Volume One : Issue Two

Brittany Road


by Audrey Shulman

From a Lighthouse by Zach Russo From a Lighthouse by Zach Russo

Her little house smells like sulfur.
Inside, it glows yellow,
a combination of southern sun and outdated light fixtures.
Her tap water tastes salty.

My great-grandmother hates antiques.
She is ninety-five years old today.

“Why you wanna buy something old, baby?”
She stands with one arm resting on the bulge of her belly.

She bakes bread.
She says her rosary.
She outlives one of her children.

She says black birds shouldn’t fly with red birds,
her inherited metaphor for segregation;
I change the channel in passive disagreement,
as we half-watch the news and flip through magazines,
remembering she grew up in a swamp.

I rewash her dishes, and look at her paintings of Jesus.
She dropped out of school in the sixth grade.

She pulls out a shoebox of love letters from 1945
written by the boy her daughter didn’t wait for,
a decision she still laments.
“Felicia married a loser instead. Don’t you marry no loser, sugar.”

Her first husband was such a drunk
he ran over a little boy getting out of a school bus.

She saved up for two years to buy a winter coat,
and waited sixty-three to marry the true love of her life.
She still marvels at how clean his fingernails were,
even now, two decades after his death.

My great-grandmother stirs her gravy, tossing in whole pieces of wet bread.
She laughs at my uncles putting lizards on their ears like earrings.
“C’mon, y’all, let’s eat.”

She leads us in grace, and eats with one arm resting on the bulge of her belly.

About the Author


Audrey Shulman

Bennington College

Audrey Shulman graduated from Bennington College in 2009. She hails from Nashville, Tennessee, and wants to be a television writer. You can find her hosting tea parties in Los Angeles.