Three Poems at 55 by Kelly King Walden

KELLY KING WALDEN blogs at kellylogos.net, which is also her Twitter handle (without the net:) She has raised children (4, one from Ethiopia) and mentors teens and college students. She created an ACT Prep business, which she runs, and writes on the side for various online magazines and a local magazine. She has only published one poem, at Plough Quarterly. She has a Master’s in English and has taught school and college in the past.

 

Padded Van
We were so packed into the van.
Every trip, just so many accouterments
needed, no matter where we were going.
My mother would bring a pillow and a full
size blanket because she was always cold
and wanted to be covered from head to toe.
Then there was a sweater or a big padded coat.
And her big computer with its fat padded case and
a big quilted bag to carry all the books and magazines
she thought she might read. And then there was the mini
back pillow for lumbar support. And she’d fill a little soft-sided
cooler with water and apples and nuts. And she insisted on an
extra blanket for anyone else who might get cold because it always
happened. We would complain about how crowded we all were, how
claustrophobic we felt with all this suffocating softness surrounding our
every move on every side. And on this trip, we were camping so my dad
had his pillow beside his seat, too, and I was sleeping on my pillow and my
sister had a big jacket hung up over her window because of the burning sun
darkening her already dark skin. And there wasn’t enough room in the back for
all the camping gear and food and bedding and suitcases so we had a couple of
rolled up sleeping bags on the floor between us in the back. And bulging out from
between the two middle seats were foam bed toppers and an extra, super-fat down comforter in case it got really cold one night AND two coats were stuck by our heads.
So when we had the wreck,
And went flying through the air and rolling over and over down the bank with the
blankets and coats and pillows and bags and comforters tumbling around us
like bedding in the heavy-duty dryer at the laundromat, it was a wild ride
and we were a little banged up, but we merely walked away
looking like pants and shirts that needed a little ironing.

 

When You Walked In
I was getting ready to leave
when you walked in the door.
I need to be somewhere soon,
but your unexpected arrival
halted my plans.
I rethink my agenda.
I can’t leave when I have the
unexpected gift of your presence
suddenly. I manufacture reasons
for hanging out in the same room
with you. Let’s see, what’s on my
list to do today? Oh, yes, clean
the kitchen windows, haha. I can
do a couple of them right now,
and just casually throw out some
conversation starters while I’m
hanging out. You are so focused
on what you are focused on. I try
to be focused on something else too.
But converse a little, too, at the
same time, you know, just casually.
About something maybe interesting.
Or just something.
Like tell you what I did this morning.
But that was nothing. Nothing
that you would find interesting.
But there was that one thing
I can mention. I can show you that one
thing.
But you’re so busy, so focused.
I don’t want to annoy you.
Can I at least
have a bridge sometimes? It can be
retractable. Or throw me a rope, maybe.
I just want to be one of the
islands in your archipelago.
I just want to be able
to cross over
sometimes
and see your eyes.

 

If Emily Had Children
The bustle in the house
the day the kids come home
Is the brightest tidying up,
the lightest of urgent work
in a stolid empty nest.
Irrational love precipitates
irrational effort
as tedious tasks stir energy.
I’m expecting life again –
the heart opens up
and the light comes in
illuminating soon filled rooms.
The stillness in the house
the day the kids leave
is a snaky place.
Trails of their presence creep
like vines through the house.
Mired in memories at every turn,
my heavy feet move from room to room.
The quicksand of sadness sucks me down.
The overgrowth of activity has left a fertility of memory
. . . A futility of memory.
If I strip their bed I strip their scent.
A grayness pervades the air and my soul
as I sweep up my Heart and put my Love away.

 

Visual Art by Karl Zuehlke

KARL ZUEHLKE’s poetry has appeared in Best New Poets 2016, DIAGRAM, The Loaded Bicycle, Jazz Cigarette, Inscape: A Journal of Literature and Art, and elsewhere. His interviews appeared in American Literary Review. He won Best Creative Presentation at the University of North Texas’ Critical Voices Conference 2014 for translations of an East German Poet. He holds a PhD from the University of North Texas, and an M.F.A from the University of Maryland, College Park. He is a former Lannan Fellow and Mary Patchell Scholarship recipient. He teaches at Tallahassee Community College.

Shed, Acrylic on Masonite, 12X12 inches, 2017

 

Fence, Acrylic on Masonite, 12X12 inches, 2017

 

Flower box, Acrylic on Masonite, 12X12 inches, 2017

 

Porch, Acrylic on Masonite, 12X12 inches, 2017

 

Stairs, Acrylic on Masonite, 12X12 inches, 2017

 

Spoken Word by Cynthia Morrison

Cynthia Morrison resides within the Bermuda Triangle. She is a writer and an award-winning playwright with theatrical works featured Off-Broadway in New York City. She is also a graduate of the Burt Reynolds Institute. Her stage play “Words with a Mummy” is published inside “21st Century Literature from the Philippines and the World” as a textbook lesson in “adaptation of a play from literature”

Gladiator

 

Visual Art by Natalie Girsberger

NAT GIRSBERGER is a Swiss visual artist based in Brooklyn, New York. She collaborates with her unconscious to explore deep layers of being through collage. Girsberger adventures into the infinity of her psyche, breaking the structures that externally limit her inner vastness, creating new worlds that suit it. Her most recent exhibits include her solo show at Ivy Brown Gallery in Chelsea called ‘Transient Terrain,’ and shows at The Living Gallery Outpost, Carrie Able Gallery, 301 Studio.

 

Not What I Expected, Collage on Paper, 2017, 8×11

 

Drop Down, Collage on Paper, 2017, 8×6

 

Tune In, Collage on Paper, 2018, 6×9

 

Road Trip, Collage on Paper, 2017, 7×12

 

Realm of Nightmares, Digital Collage, 2018

 

Cosmic Drifters, Collage on Paper, 2017, 8×6

Boxcar by David-Matthews Barnes

David-Matthew Barnes is the award-winning author of several novels and collections of stage plays, monologues, scenes, and poetry. His screenplays and teleplays have been official selections in the Hollywood Screenplay Contest, the Inspired Minds Short Film and Screenplay Competition, the Shore Scripts Screenwriting Competition in London, and the Film Makers TV Writing Competition in Los Angeles. He has been an arts educator for more than a decade. For more information, please visit http://www.davidmatthewbarnes.com.

 

 

BOXCAR

A screenplay for a short film

Adapted from the one-act play

 

EXT. AN ABANDONED TRAIN YARD; A SMALL AMERICAN TOWN – NIGHT

The night is providing a false sense of calm.

The hour is late.

Beyond a quiet, remote gas station is a cemetery for trains.

Stillness blankets the train yard. Empty, rusted rail cars litter the space, discarded and long forgotten.

Beyond the perimeter of a broken chain linked fence, the landscape is sparse and the horizon is endless. In the distance, a faint glow and flicker of lights indicates civilization exists in the form of a small town.

From opposite ends of the yard, two young men approach.

AUSTIN, 17, approaches from the left. He’s not as tough as he looks.

HARLEY, also 17, approaches from the right. Despite what he’s been through, he still has hope.

They meet in front of a rail car.

It’s clear they do not need words to speak.

Austin climbs up to the rail car. He reaches down and offers a hand to Harley.

INT. ABANDONED BOXCAR TRAIN – CONTINUED

The interior of the boxcar is dimly lit. Spill from the nearby neon gas station sign mixed with moonlight seeps in through cracks, creating an ethereal glow.

 

The boys find a place to sit.

AUSTIN

I think you had the right idea comin’

here, Harley.

HARLEY

When the whiskey kicks in, maybe it

won’t be so scary.

AUSTIN

What are you scared of?

HARLEY

Nothing. (Beat.) Coyotes.

AUSTIN

They won’t mess with you unless you

mess with them.

HARLEY

Tell that to my cousin Francine.

AUSTIN

What happened to her?

HARLEY

She got attacked by a pack of ‘em.

They almost ripped her face off.

AUSTIN

(trying to convince them both)

I don’t think there’s coyotes in the

train yard.

HARLEY

If you say so.

AUSTIN

You don’t believe me?

HARLEY

I think they’re everywhere.

AUSTIN

I wish some of ‘em would make their way

over to the dance. Devour those fuckers.

HARLEY

I wonder why they call it Homecoming.

AUSTIN

It has to do with football.

HARLEY

Doesn’t everything?

AUSTIN

Spirit week. You ever seen such a bunch

of idiots?

HARLEY

We grew up with them. We’ve known they

were dumb since childhood.

AUSTIN

You know…you could’ve gone if you

wanted to…to the dance, I mean.

HARLEY

Why would I?

AUSTIN

Everybody else is.

HARLEY

You’re not.

AUSTIN

That’s because…

HARLEY

Because?

AUSTIN

I’d rather be here with you.

(Beat.)

You feelin’ the same?

HARLEY

I think I’m feelin’ the whiskey now.

AUSTIN

It’s the cheap stuff. It’ll hit ya hard.

HARLEY

Lately it seems everything does.

AUSTIN

You gotta toughen up.

HARLEY

Like you?

AUSTIN

Yeah. Otherwise, those coyotes…

they’ll tear your heart out.

HARLEY

What would’ve happened?

AUSTIN

What do you mean?

HARLEY

If we would’ve gone to the dance tonight.

(Beat.)

Both of us.

(Beat.)

Together.

AUSTIN

I don’t wanna think about that.

HARLEY

You’d think we’d be dead my morning?

AUSTIN

No. (Beat.) By midnight.

HARLEY

I should’ve drank more whiskey.

AUSTIN

I wish we had a radio.

HARLEY

What for? Neither one of us can sing.

AUSTIN

Naw. But we can dance.

HARLEY

You’re outta your mind.

AUSTIN

I am. (Beat.) That’s why you like me.

HARLEY

Among other reasons.

AUSTIN

Name ‘em. The reasons.

HARLEY

You want the entire list?

AUSTIN

Top five.

HARLEY

You’ll have to settle for three.

AUSTIN

Fine. I’ll take what I can get.

HARLEY

I like you because you do my World

History homework for me.

AUSTIN

That’s because it takes you too long. I

finish it so we can spend more time

together.

HARLEY

I like you because I’m the only person

who’s ever seen you cry.

AUSTIN

Now, don’t go tellin’ people about that.

I’ll deny it. You hear me?

HARLEY

I like you because you’re good to me,

Austin. You take care of me.

AUSTIN

Always have. Always will.

HARLEY

I like you…because you’re still here.

You’re still alive.

(Beat.)

You didn’t die on me.

AUSTIN

That’s four things. You said I was only

getting three.

HARLEY

I’ll tell you the rest later.

AUSTIN

There’s no rush. We got all night.

HARLEY

And then what?

AUSTIN

The sun comes up.

HARLEY

And it’s just another day.

AUSTIN

Hey, at least we got each other.

HARLEY

If anybody ever found out…

AUSTIN

Did you hear that?

HARLEY

No. What was it?

AUSTIN

I think it was a coyote. Outside.

HARLEY

In the train yard? I thought you said…

AUSTIN

Maybe it’s hungry. I bet he’s looking

for food.

     (Beat.)

You want me to hold you?

HARLEY

Why?

AUSTIN

Because you looked scared.

HARLEY

Not as scared as you do.

AUSTIN

I’m actually hungry.

HARLEY

Yeah, I forgot to eat dinner, too.

AUSTIN

In the morning, let’s go to Marie’s.

We can get glazed donuts and chocolate

milk.

HARLEY

Okay. They open at five a.m.

AUSTIN

Even on a Saturday?

HARLEY

Oh, shit. Maybe they open later on the

weekends. I don’t know.

AUSTIN

We’ll go by there when the sun comes up.

HARLEY

Are we spending the night here?

AUSTIN

Yeah.

HARLEY

Together?

AUSTIN

You don’t wanna be with me?

HARLEY

Of course I do. It’s just…we’ve never…

AUSTIN

I think I’m ready now.

HARLEY

I think I am, too.

     (Beat.)

Maybe.

AUSTIN

Oh yeah?

HARLEY

You should’ve brought a radio.

AUSTIN

Or a gun.

HARLEY

Why would you say that?

AUSTIN

Not for me. To protect us. From the

animals.

HARLEY

Who’s going to protect you?

AUSTIN

I don’t have anyone else.

HARLEY

Exactly. So, don’t go doing any more

crazy shit like last weekend.

AUSTIN

I’m okay now.

HARLEY

No, you’re not.

AUSTIN

It’s only because I wanted to take you

to the dance. It’s not fair.

HARLEY

We don’t make the rules. We gotta go

some place where love is legal.

AUSTIN

When do we get to have a say in somethin’?

HARLEY

Once we get the hell outta here.

AUSTIN

(after a moment)

I tried.

HARLEY

I know you did.

(Beat.)

But you left something behind.

AUSTIN

I’m sorry.

HARLEY

We made a promise. Doesn’t that mean

anything to you?

AUSTIN

It kept me alive.

HARLEY

I didn’t see it coming, Austin. I knew

you were sad and fucked up over the shit

you had going on at home. But I didn’t

know how bad it was for you. Cecilia

said something was wrong with you. I

told her, “Yeah, but that’s why I like

him so much.” She told me to keep an eye

on you, to look out for you. She didn’t

realize you were doing that for me. That

I couldn’t even take care of myself, let

alone you.

INTERCUT – MONTAGE

As Harley speaks, we see the following sequence of events unfold:

-VERONICA, also 17, rushes into and through Harley’s ramshackle house, searching for him. She is frantic when she finds him in his bedroom. Immediately, Harley knows something is wrong.

-Austin is working in a retirement home, serving food to the residents. It’s clear he likes his job. It’s clear they like him.

-Austin is leaving a military recruiter’s office, defeated.

-Veronica is driving Harley to the hospital. The mood is tense. Veronica chain smokes, while Harley fears the worst.

-Harley and Veronica arrive at the hospital. Eventually, they take an elevator to the seventh floor. There, Harley approaches a locked metal door. Austin’s sad eyes appear in a narrow, small window in the door, pleading for love. They two boys speak with their eyes.

          HARLEY (V.O.)

So, when Veronica showed up at my

house that morning, I had a feeling.

I knew she’d been crying and we both

know she never cries. I thought maybe

something had happened to her aunt or

maybe Rico and Candi had broken up

again. I never imagined it was you.

She said afterschool on Wednesday you

went to the recruiters downtown because

you were planning to join the Army. I

called her a liar because you promised

me you’d never leave me behind in this

place. I told her you loved working in

the cafeteria at the old folks home

because you know they need you there.

You know how to make tapioca just the

way they like it. She said the Army

rejected you. They turned you down. They

didn’t want you. Is that why you did it?

Or was it because people are figuring it

out? They know what’s going on between

Do we even have a word for this, for

what me and you are to each other? What

do you call us, Austin? In your head, I

mean. In your dreams. The wild ones. I

went with Veronica to the hospital

because I didn’t believe her. I had to

see you with my own eyes. We drove their

in her uncle’s big ass car. She chain

smoked and we listened to the radio. I

don’t remember what song was playing

because all I could think about was you.

Finally, Veronica said, “Talk, Harley.

Say something. Anything.” So, I did. I

told her I realized there was no way in

hell you’d ask me to go to Homecoming with

you. I was better kept as a secret, tight

HARLEY (V.O.)

     (cont’d)

and hard, close to your chest. I told her, “Austin said I was the best kisser. He

wants to spend forever in each other’s

arms and blah, blah, blah.” She wasn’t

listening to me. She was thinking about

her brother who blew his head off

last Christmas Eve. She told me once

she found him underneath the tree.

(Beat.)

I felt empty when we got there. We got

lost in the hospital looking for you.

Then, some nurse told us you were in

the psych ward on suicide watch on the

seventh floor. As we rode the elevator

up, I remembered it was spirit week at

school. Nobody cared about nothing except

that stupid football game and the dance

that’s happening right now. I had more

important things on my mind, like why was

I watching my friends get pregnant, flunk

out, overdose, be banished away to

boarding schools by step-mothers whose

smeared lipstick says it all.

 

END OF FLASHBACK/MONTAGE

We are back in the boxcar.

   HARLEY

They wouldn’t let me in to see you. But

you were there on the other side of that

metal door. All I could see were your

eyes through that small window. Just a

little rectangle of glass. But that was

all I needed. To see your beautiful eyes.

And then I knew. The sadness inside of

you was too much for you to bear.

AUSTIN

It still is.

HARLEY

I know.

(Beat.)

That’s why I’m here.

AUSTIN

I can’t make sense of it sometime. Of

what I feel for you.

HARLEY

Then I guess it’s a good thing we got

each other.

AUSTIN

I would’ve asked you…if we were at

Homecoming…I would’ve asked you dance.

(Beat.)

What would’ve you said?

HARLEY

I probably would’ve said you’re a crazy

son of a bitch.

AUSTIN

We already know that.

HARLEY

You know I can’t say no to you.

Austin stands. He extends a hand down to Harley. It’s an invitation.

 

AUSTIN

Then don’t.

Harley accepts the unspoken invitation by placing his hand in Austin’s. He stands.

Slowly, the two men begin to sway together, as if they were dancing to a love song only heard by them.

In the distance, the haunting cry of a wild coyote is heard.

They ignore the warning.

                                                                                  FADE OUT

Native Son by Steve Werkmeister

Steve Werkmeister is an English professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. He was born and raised in Nebraska and now resides in Olathe, Kansas, with his family. His first poetry collection, The Unauthorized Autobiography: Composed of Fragments, Distortions, Mythologies & Lies (PunksWritePoems Press), was published in fall 2016. He has a literature-focused blog at https://stevesofgrass.wordpress.com/, and you can find him on Twitter @SteveWerkmyster.

 

 

Native Son

 

When I was a kid,

every old Mexican I knew

 

claimed their family was

really from Spain,

 

had secret Jewish blood,

or was part Gypsy,

 

deftly denying

the obvious aboriginal roots.

 

It puzzled me, literally.

 

I understand why no one

wants to say my family

 

was shit on by the Aztecs,

& then the Spanish,

& then the French,

& then Americans.

 

No one wants to say

my family got so used to it,

 

we crossed the border

to get shit on here.

 

Everyone wants to be

 

the child Arthur pulling

sword from stone,

the baby in the manger,

the prince, not the pauper.

 

But I didn’t fit that, either,

being half & half, marginal

even among the marginals.

 

So here I am, just what

you see: a not-quite Mexican

writing, a not-quite German

writing, a not-quite American

writing, content to handle my

 

words like berries, to

tend most tenderly

 

my lines like rows, to spend

millennia crafting poems

 

just like the land that wrought me.

 

Track 16 by Benjamin Schmitt

Benjamin Schmitt is the Best Book Award and Pushcart nominated author of two books, Dinner Table Refuge (PunksWritePoemsPress, 2015) and The global conspiracy to get you in bed (Kelsay Books, 2013). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Sakura Review, Hobart, Grist, The Columbia Review, Two Thirds North, and elsewhere. You can read his scary stories for kids in the Amazon Rapids app. He lives with his wife and daughter in Seattle where he also reviews books, curates a reading series, and teaches workshops to people of all ages.

 

 

Track 16

 

Tonight you asked me

how a kid could just go bad

I told you about standing

at the magazine rack when I was twelve

pretending to read Auto Trader

while stuffing Playboys and cigarette cartons

down my pants to sell at a discount

in the halls of my Christian school

 

The soil can accept

the roots of a tree or the roots

can accept new soil

it doesn’t matter so much as the growth

roots and soil are familiar

and grow like the poem

spreading branches through the margins

of notebooks into computer hard drives

and then maybe even into the lap

of someone I will only curtly brush with words

 

But you kept on asking me

why only some grow

and others do not

and what they will

eventually grow into

 

Let’s hope our daughter never takes

thirty pills of Dramamine at once

going five miles an hour on the interstate

as a dog criticizes her driving

from the passenger seat

 

Sometimes the flashlights of adulthood

shine in childhood windows

police plant drugs on orphans

and take them away again

teenage Abrahams hold

stillborn Isaacs in courtrooms

handcuffs bark on the wrists of star athletes

young prostitutes commit suicide

in plaster casts of Taylor Swift songs

 

In darker years I learned

how to make a burrito in a towel

with Fritos and ramen noodles

while crackheads joked about raping me

somehow I loved you then

and felt you in the linoleum

ten years before we met

maybe the crimes hollowed me out

to hold the rainbow bones of your laughter

I guess what I’m trying to say is that

maybe bad kids grow beautiful loss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self-Portrait as Chicken Dinner by Erin Slaughter

Erin Slaughter is editor and co-founder of literary journal The Hunger, and the author of two poetry chapbooks: GIRLFIRE (dancing girl press, 2018) and Elegy for the Body(Slash Pine Press, 2017). You can find her writing in Prairie Schooner, Passages North, F(r)iction, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. Originally from north Texas, she is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at Florida State University. Her first full-length poetry collection is forthcoming from New Rivers Press in 2019.

 

Self-Portrait as Chicken Dinner

 

She is a flocked hen going further

west. Like a rucksack slung

over the shoulder in an old

movie, what she contains is less

important than the visual.

 

When did she become afraid

of her own foolish cluck and scrape

away from the claw-footed earth?

 

For home is not a blank thing

that wanders. For shelter

is a wooden stake

through the heart.

 

And always that dead

ghost glazes her skin, thin

film ruddying feathers.

She names it love and gives up

on soap or articulating hurt.

 

Catalog her contents, blueprint for slicing

open: the cute, crumpled gizzard.

The menagerie of howls caged up

in her heart. When she is hollowed

 

like the animal ribs of a hundred

historical Thanksgivings,

it’s the handles that pierce

corn from either side to keep it

in place. All we cannot bear

to notice as the cob collapses

shucks and lifts its yellow,

 

brittle prayer to a hall of teething

mirrors. To a hallway of mirroring teeth.

Suga by Fierce Sonia (Editor’s Pick Winner)

Fierce Sonia’s work, Suga, has been selected as our Editor’s Pick by New Plains Review’s Visual Art Editor, Stella Kim. We found the piece to be beautiful, strong, and one of our favorites from this round of submissions.

Fierce Sonia is a mixed media artist. She builds a substrate with acrylic paint and collage. A narrative is constructed by the tension between the lush layers moving to dreamy feminine mindscapes with a brighter palette. If you listen closely her work has a soundtrack, a rhythm, a pulse that will give you a magic carpet ride to a fairytale that restates your own heartbeat. She has a public studio at Torpedo Factory: 105 North Union Street, studio 5 Alexandria, VA 22303 Follow on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/fiercesonia
Or @fiercesonia on instagram

Suga, mixed media acrylic piece, 18″ x 24″, 2018.