Vassar Student Review

Vassar Student Review

Featured Author


When softening earth gives up its icy shell

Before spring buds blot out the soil,

I can count the graves below my window. 

The smooth unmarked stones sink 

further with every passing season

into indifferent dirt.

 Scattered, patternless—so it seems.


My small hands plunged into hollows,

Filled them them up with feathered corpses,

Weightless bundles of bones and matted down.

I learned to winnow life down to its rock

Marker, sixteen of them, to be exact.


A girl I once knew named all her stuffed animals.

Each one in the pile beside her bed

Possessed an identity that could not be forgotten.

In the yard next door, I named the chickens—


Monte Cristo, quiet roster with silver streaks

And an iridescent tail;

Siny, fighting tireless battles with shoes;

Heather, perched on shoulders, beak shoved

Into your hair.


I scorned the neighbor girl’s stuffed animals.

For all her naming and make-believe,

They were not living, breathing beings

Who scratched in the dirt, ate from your palm.

Yet something that never breathed can’t stop;

Only the imaginary lacks an expiration date.


Someone forgot to tell me

Living doesn’t last.


The neighbor girl never screamed at hawks,

Held a peeping chick with a leg split in two.

Never crawled under sheds to unearth

Small, careworn bodies,

Or followed a trail of blood-stained feathers.

Never listened to rattling breath sputter to silence.

Never picked up fragments of egg shell

With a wet, still, body curled up inside,

Dead before it lived.


A year ago

I found the neighbor girl’s stuffed animals

In a box beside her driveway.

I held a plush purple elephant in my hands

And wondered how it felt

To choose what is lost.


Fading evening light gleams through trees,

Glides through fence slats,

And dances on sixteen stones.

In the center of the garden amid the hydrangeas,

I kneel in the dirt, plunge my hands into the earth,

And dig another hole.

I Should Not Write

About the dump truck driver

Who honked at me

At the corner of 5th and Common.

It is a small incident,


It should not matter to me

Because I am not special.

I should roll my eyes, laugh it off

Like that woman outside Starbucks.

I should roll my eyes and laugh it off

Like I have, every other time.


I should not write about the

Ten-year-old boy

Catcalling my best friend

On the sidewalk.

He is young and immature,

He will grow up.

In ten years or twenty

He will know better.

Never mind that our seventy year-old

President to-be does not know better

Or does

And doesn’t care.

He is being relatable—human.

As long as it is common

It is okay.


There are many greater problems—

There are people

Hurting and hiding and dying.

There are people

Doing much worse than honking

At a girl on her run.

I am selfish, self-absorbed,



I am a bitch

Who does not understand

That boys are being boys

And men are being men

The way they learned

They could be.


Could it be that

It’s learned from boyhood,

To be a man

Means to honk at the woman

Who asks to be understood.

To reduce her when she asks again,

To a bitch not worth the time.


When does common

Stop being okay.


I opened up this page

To write

About the dump truck driver

Who honked at me

And now I cannot stop.


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