plain china: best undergraduate writing

Volume One : Issue Two


by Skye Shirley

Untitled by Lauren Harris Untitled by Lauren Harris


First, Stalin burned the forests.
Next, planted hemlocks in

mathematical rows so no one
could hide in the woods,

sap running down the legs
of the evergreens.


I melt gooseberries into jam,
mosquitoes swarming at my eyes.

The pond is lukewarm, pollen-coated.
A rain of insects and woodsmoke

buries us as you take the spoon from my hands,
already too sugared and dark.


In the near Arctic, the moon
rises late— we don’t sleep.

I catch you crying:
the constellations
are different from home—

where is your Carina,
keel of a ship?


We collect milk
from the woman uphill.
Deaf, she hums

at the sink of her cement house.
Her cat births, skin weathers.

We bring her raw honey
from bees in boxes.


We never separate,
not even to launder our sheets.

take our shoes off,

fill tubs in the pond, add
clothing & soap, stomp,

churning suds

water blackens
around our ankles—

About the Author

Skye Shirley

Boston College

Skye Shirley majors in English and creative writing at Boston College, where she is currently writing a poetry thesis. She has a soft spot for ancient civilizations and a hunger for mythology. Her poems have been published in Stylus, Laughing Medusa, and Naked Singularity.

Honorable Mention

"This was by far the most difficult—and most inspiring—contest I have ever judged, simply because the quality of the work was so high and so various."

April Bernard