Advice for Saying Hello by Ace Boggess

ACE BOGGESS is an author of three books of poetry, most recently Ultra Deep Field (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2017), and the novel A Song Without a Melody (Hyperborea Publishing, 2016). His fourth poetry collection, I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So, is forthcoming from Unsolicited Press. His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, RATTLE, River Styx, North Dakota Quarterly and many other journals. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.

 

Advice for Saying Hello

I’m the wrong person to ask—
heart in it, but not my voice.

If we haven’t met,
you’re the speck of a gnarled spider

dangling from a ceiling in the hall.
Legs atremble, I won’t approach,

might stare rudely or run away.
I’m paralyzed from the tongue up.

Should you encounter me,
please speak fast

before panic hides me in its cloak.
Tell me your name, your favorite film,

what songs play
on the soundtrack to your life.

Tell me how much you love
spaghetti & red wine,

the smell of frying eggs,
the color of anything

under a rain-gray sky.
I promise to listen, &

maybe then, I’ll have an answer
for the silence I wear

like a holiday sweater:
ugly, red, & pulled from a drawer

out of gratitude or duty
on yet another lonely, public eve.

Who Art Thou Mona Lisa?

I was giddy with unspent energy as I traversed the halls of the Louvre. People shedding their winter coats walked down the checkered hallway, pausing to snap pictures of the headless Nike statue before moving on. Glass skylights illuminated a grand hallway with towering ceilings embellished in ornate carvings. I followed the congested flow of people, my school friends in tow, as we rushed past life-sized battle scenes, mythological images, and picturesque landscapes rendered in remarkable detail. The crowd slowed, and the top of a dark painting rested with a glass case on the wall. I saw Da Vinci’s famous lady, surrounded by people scrambling to get near, and I laughed.

She was small, and her colors were muted, but she monopolized everyone’s attention. She sat across from a grand painting ten times her size with ten times her vibrancy of color. She was underwhelming. Or perhaps, I was just very young.

I would later learn that my approach to art, and to the world, was still developing past its shallow stage. Appreciation of the arts was more complex than its surface level, and that to access something beyond a superficial approach was key in understanding not only the world, but myself as well.

I grew up on TV, fast ads, and colorful cereal boxes. My attention span was here and then out the window watching a cat climb a tree.  But I was living in a society that fostered my behavior. There was sugar in my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Colorful signs trying to sell me something fast. Time was money, and money made the world go around. Worship it, worry over it, waste it. But do not waste time.

I didn’t have time to be staring out windows. I had to be focused on my grades, on sports, on my friends, on my social media. I had to worry about how my life appeared to colleges and how my face appeared to the world. Because those things were important, right?

It wasn’t until I got to college that I learned that I worry too much about the world’s perception of myself. I worry about the words I write on this page. That they will never be good enough. Never perfect.

But to create art in any form involves leaving yourself at the mercy of others’ scrutiny. It is my primary reason for writer’s block. Why I am constantly conflicted, because I am a writer that does not write as often as I should. Can I call myself a writer and admit that I sometimes hate writing? I tell myself to stop trying to fit into a box of what a writer should be and to just be me.

It’s a popular mantra now days. Just be yourself. And through living it, people are breaking down barriers not only in literature and writing, but in all facets of life. This freedom of expression allows for a plethora of diverse perspectives and allows us to look beyond the surface level to find greater understanding and greater human connectivity.

“Where are you from?”

While easy enough to answer for most people, it exists to some of us as one of the most complicated questions in our lives. It’s an impossibly loaded interrogation that has been long embodied in the small-talk canon, not taking into account a large number of factors that may distort the reply, and not caring. It demands a simple answer, a recognizable place on the map. It doesn’t take into account those of us that just don’t know, whether it be lost to history, or left enigmatic by circumstance.

In my case, I can’t establish or trace back to home-base. I never lived anywhere long enough to really set up camp and lay claim to a cultural or regional piece of identity. I’ve also come to learn that identity is everything to a person, and knowing where you are from is one of the largest pieces of the puzzle, and when absent, can leave you feeling blank.

 

Where is home?


What is home?

 

What am I?

 

Who am I?

 

However, my passport tells me I have a home — Guanajuato, Mexico. And while I can show you beautiful, postcard-like pictures of my little birth-town, and maybe tell a tourist brochure’s slogans worth about it, claiming it as my own would be a fallacy. I was never able to own it; I simply never lived there. And when I’ve tried, the cut-throat nature of Mexican culture has prohibited me from laying claim to it, not having met enough of its criteria: I have printer paper white skin and speak none of the language.

The reality is that locations are often just stops to people—distant memories. Nomadic as that is, a lot of us yearn for a “home” of our own — an answer to the ever-present question that we can just yell out with excitement and dignity. A “home” is a place which we can embrace and say, “that’s me.” A place whose colors and histories you can stand by, good and bad; a place that fills in the missing piece.

Really, we draw too much validity from places. Like children trying to conform and make friends in the classroom, always worrying about being ostracized and ignored because we’re the most different face in the room; but also, that we are not different enough, concerned that we may be boring and lost in a sea of average.

I can’t help but feel like we’re misconstruing diversity, diversity always being heritage and appearance, but seldom this implicit thing that can’t be categorized in absolutes. We can’t always be expected to look the part, and part the look, and more often than not, most of diversity can’t be seen. Living a wandering life has made me realize that. We can’t expect people to be pigeon-holed, or to pigeon-hole themselves. I’ve always been “American,” not by my own creed but because I look the part, despite only living here for the last couple of years and way out of my formative period.

We, as people, are collages of experiences, and that should be reflected in our writing. We are seldom token characters, and it pays to reflect the reality of what really creates diversity among us. The real world is complex, and so are we; we should all be making an effort to portray mélange in both the characters we create, and the real people we talk about—humanizing those we know little about, and avoiding cheap attempts at emulating or portraying pseudo-authenticity.

So, when people ask me where I’m from, I tell them “I don’t know.” Because I don’t. I blank on the thought, and a big enough part of me is tired of giving one line lies or convenient truths that codify my life into something appreciably short enough: “I’m American.” “I’m Mexican.” There’s no way in hell I’m accepting the grand total of my genetic lineage as what I am, or where I’m from.

But I’d love to tell you who I am, and ultimately, I think that’s what diversity actually comes down to. Not a blip on the map, and not my skin-tone.

 

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

 

SP 17 Update

New Plains Review has come a long way over the past thirty years, and we continue to implement and expand ideas to further enhance not only our journal, but the overall artistic community. I am quickly closing in on my 1-year anniversary of bring Editor-in-Chief for the journal, and I cannot help but to reflect on the previous 2 years as an Associate Editor. Our online presence has grown more in the last 9 months than it had the previous decade, and with the launch of our website, it will continue to grow and become a more prominent publishing group. It is on the backs of contributors and our editors which makes this possible.

We look forward to launching our Online Exclusives segment at the end of the month. Some of the contributors will also be in our print edition. Several of our contributors are from around the world. We will have all forms of creative works from short films to music to visual art, which we’ll be able to share in full color. (I am definitely advocating and pressuring my Executive Editor to start printing in color, but the budget isn’t in our favor at the moment–I will save my rant of Oklahoma education budget cuts for now).

Saying we are excited is an understatement, and yes, I realize that saying something is an understatement is a cliché, but that’s all I can think of at the moment as I’m also fighting the urge to rant, as stated previously.

Not pictured: Alyssa, who is taking the picture, Michelle, Shay, and A.J.

Nevertheless, we are just past our halfway mark for the semester and everyone has been hard at work. I want to take a moment and thank a few of our senior editors, as they make my job easier than it should or could be. First and foremost, Taylor Cradduck and Courtney Cullins, our Managing Editors, have made New Plains their baby and Taylor quite possibly has found the most typos and errors (some to many are my fault).  Unfortunately, this is Taylor’s, and possibly Courtney’s, last few months with us. They will be off to bigger and better things, saving the world one typo at a time.

Secondly, but certainly not second, the all-encompassing Media Team: Alyssa Compton (Director of Public Relations) and Kellyn Eaddy (Senior Blog Editor and Social Media Specialist), along with their team, Anna Dore and Andi Ullrich. This group has done so much over the past few months and they do it with a smile, with the additional workload of being full-time students hovering over them. This group of go-getters are constantly at their round table making sure everything is posted and edited, and they deal with my neurotic leadership from time-to-time when things get intense and deadlines seem to be tomorrow.

Seth Copeland, our Publishing Editor, is new to our staff, but his experience running his own journal, Jazz Cigarettehas helped to streamline our transition into being both a print and online journal, as well as being a mediator to contributors throughout the publishing process.

Sydney Vance and Ocean Scheel, our Poetry and Prose editors, have both gone above and beyond to make sure the reading and selection process is disseminated to their teams and deadlines are met.

With the new additions of expanding New Plains Review, we’ve acquired a Development Officer. A.J. Ferguson has worked hand-in-hand with the editorial team. Our contests and fundraisers have been A.J.’s big tests in making sure things run smoothly.

I will wrap up this blog Michelle Waggoner, the heralded Art Director & Production Chief (as I’m over word count and I don’t want Kellyn getting on to me *inserts smiling emoji*). Michelle has been with New Plains for years and years, and her workload seems to increase while we continue to struggle to find her an assistant and more money. (Still saving the budget cut rant for later.) On top of New Plains Review, the New Plains Publishing Group has 2 other journals– 1890: Undergraduate Research Journal and The Central Dissent: A Journal of Gender & Sexuality, both of which she designs. One day she will be off to bigger and better things. Or New Plains Review will continue to grow and become the most well-known literary journal of Oklahoma. We may be a bit biased, but with the continuity of returning go-getters and talent filled editors, we know we can reach that goal.

Thank you to everyone unmentioned, yes, even Shay Rahm, our enthusiastic Executive Editor, and all the associate editors and even more to the contributors and readers across the world. Without you all, our journal would be something short of a nimrod book.