Welcome to day four of Teen Sequins 2016! Today’s poem is “Straw Theory” by Margaret Zhang.

Margaret Zhang’s poem is a series of tricks, “a trick of the eye”, “a trick of the brain”, leading to a turn no less surprising for its simultaneous shock and familiarity. Spoken in a voice both distanced from the experience and swept up in memory, “me the magic trick over and over” casts a spell on the reader as Ruby cast on the speaker, as the speaker cast on themselves, enamored, innocent. “How two could be coiled/so tightly and suddenly/have nothing.” Zooming out and back in (from “two” to “we”), Zhang’s specificity and proximity are where the poem makes impact, and proves her theory. -Robby Auld



Ruby first taught me to untangle
stirrers of showy coffee shops
by tangling them: to perforate the paper coats
with our teeth until the holes pooled together, crumpled
off like trousers, then to interlace them in fingers until
they were no longer wound. She showed
me the magic trick over and over
until I memorized how she laid the straws
across each other like crucifixion, wound
the stem of the cross over the arm, choked the neck
with the right limb, bent the structure like a bird
opening its wings towards
each other. It was a trick of the eye:
snap snap, knot gone before we could see
it. Watching her twist straws like watching
god devise glow
from thunderclap. Any latch, when bolted
too tightly, too cautiously, she taught me, spun
the other way without notice. How two could be coiled
so tightly and suddenly
have nothing. That night we pretended
we were straws and locked
so firmly we receded from each other’s
arms. It was a trick of the brain:
snap snap, knot gone before
I could see it.


Margaret Zhang is a senior at Castilleja School (Palo Alto, CA), where she appreciates memes and serves as the Editor-in-Chief/Co-Founder of Glass Kite Anthology. She has attended writing workshops at the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio and the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop, among others. Read her other work in Words Dance, Cadaverine, the Foyle Young Poets Anthology, YARN, and other journals.

Honorable mentions: Shira Abramovich (Newton South High School, Newton, MA (graduate) / (incoming) Brown University, Providence, RI), Hetty Bai (University of Missouri, Kansas City, MO), Ashley Cheak (Stivers School for the Arts, Dayton, OH), Steven Chung (Monta Vista High School, Cupertino, CA), Anabelle Crowe (homeschooler, Asheville, NC), Sophie Evans (Lusher Charter School, New Orleans, LA), Gus Gonzalez (Albert Einstein High School, Silver Spring, MD), Hannah Graf (Middleton, MA), Alex Greenberg (Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York, NY), Allison Huang (The Lawrenceville School, Princeton, NJ), Ziqi Lei (The Pennington School, Pennington, NJ), Annalise Lozier (Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, MI), Erin Jin Mei O’Malley (York, PA), Keith Prescott (Falmouth High School, Falmouth, ME), Jean Rivera (Greenburgh Graham, Hastings-On-Hudson, NY), Nicole Seah (United World College of South East Asia, Singapore), Elizabeth Seri (Harvard-Westlake School, Los Angeles, CA), Emily Yin (Boxborough Regional High School, Acton, MA), Lisa Zou (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA)

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