Three Poems: "Ceramics," "Tracing Chances," "Math Problems"

Shekina Oh
Pounding and mounding
A ball of mud as sticky as rice,
My instructor's hands are
As messy as the hardened
Bowls on the metal shelf
That bend and twist with spirals
Mesmerizing the eyes when
Staring at it. Our lips
Do not utter, but the words
Flow through our stares
Like the tap water that
Relieves our thirsty bowls.
"Can we make something better?"
We ask ourselves while watching
Our teacher bend the edge
Of his plate without warning.
"That will bring this work to life,"
He says as he then
Goes to the wooden table
And kneads soft clay for us
To make ceramics,
But my chemistry notes say
Ceramics are hard as metal
And inorganic, dull like a
Sleeping pill. How could
The colors painted on our
So-called "art" show the
Pain and emotion poured
Into each cup and saucer
When ceramics,
Like my "art,"
Is lifeless?
I stare at the mound
In front of me
And gently push
My wet hand into
The clay—lifeless,
Science says, but
Each press and roll
Will bring it to life.
Tracing Chances

The plastic dice clang
On the marble floor. Its
Threes and sixes on the
Ground speak to me in
The language of the
Billionaires and programmers
Who landed on planet Earth
At the perfect time.
Oh, how probability tells
Tales and stories from
Mercury to Mars!
Even the greatest minds
Cannot fathom the vastness
Of combinations, the infinite
Ones and zeros that form
Our world, forming and breaking
Each of us. We searched the universe
For answers but came back
With confusion.
What if the digits are wrong?
The rise of the Romans
And the triumph of the Bull
Trace back to the charts
We will forever decode.
Math Problems

The clouds disappeared
As if a magician waved a wand
At them, and the sky turned
Black like licorice. A gray-haired
Man carried several scratchy sacks
On his back bent forty-five degrees—
Billy was his name. He threw each pack
On the ground and faced his azure Beetle,
Stuffing the contents of each bag
In the cramped back seat. Watermelons
Spilled into the front row, where he
Drove. Out of boredom, Billy began
Counting each emerald green fruit
As if they were prized jewels in an auction.
Meanwhile, a tall, lean spy with glasses as thick
As a calculus textbook watched Billy
From behind a wall, sparing no detail.
"He breathed one thousand seven hundred
Sixty-two times in the last five minutes," the spy wrote
In a notebook eventually published thirty years ago.
"Billy has four hundred watermelons.
What is his last name?" Page four hundred
Fifty-two continues, leaving a
Blank space at the bottom of the page.
My smile turns into a frown,
And my eyes puff up like a
Balloon ready to pop from
External pressure. I check
The clock on the classroom wall—
Five minutes. Numbers run around
My head as I try to explain their
Absurdity. Why do math problems
Have to be this way?
Shekina Oh is a high school student who has been writing for as long as she can remember. In her free time, she likes reading and exploring new hobbies. She has also served as a student ambassador for WorldVision and a Community Ambassador for Write the World. Her pieces are on and upcoming in Under the Madness Magazine, the New York Times, and Last Stanza Poetry Journal. Additionally, she has won the title "Best Peer Reviewer" in Write the World's October Climate Change Writing Contest and is a finalist in several other contests, including Pulitzer Center's Fighting Words Poetry Contest 2023.

"wanted colors that are close enough to the clay that are used to make those pottery" by S@veOurSm:)e is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

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A magazine for teen writers—by teen writers. Under the Madness brings together student editors from across New Hampshire under the mentorship of the state poet laureate to focus on the experiences of teens from around the world. Whether you live in Berlin, NH, or Berlin, Germany—whether you wake up every day in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North or South America—we’re interested in reading you!