Two poems by Martha West

Leaving This Life Behind

Leaning against alley wall, cigarette in hand.
Inhales deeply, then respires. Gentle cascade of smoke
propelled from fleshy lips and wafting from
flared nostrils.

“What’s it gonna be, son?
You ain’t got no daddy,
ain’t got a job–ain’t got a life.
You don’t got nothin’ goin’ right.

“We pay you good for work.
Get all the women ya want.
Heck, we’ll give enough to get you out of this God-forsaken town.”
But that doesn’t mean we’ll let you leave.

 Scorn filters the fog–leaden air.
“Get outta here, you back-alley mongrel.
You and your associates have nothing to offer me.
I’m getting out of here without your help, just you see.”

“You’re living in a freakin’ zoned land.
Did you sniff something before you came here?
Maybe ya stuck yourself—either way it don’t matter.
Only way you gettin’ out o’ here is in a box.”

A breathy laugh, the texture of winter’s harshest breeze,
“No, that’s where you’re wrong.”


Simple Living

Crossed-legged on the front porch stoop.
Dirt and rust gather from un-swept floorboards
to cling to exposed thighs and crusted calves with russet smears.

Drinking flat coke from a Styrofoam cup
I brace myself back against the banister,
Watching chickens scratch the soil in search of squirmy dainties.

The black lab curled up on the step below me
Head propped on my ankle.
Her tail creates miniature dust clouds at the birds scavenging her yard.

Together we wait
for the pink and purple streaks
that will announce the impending darkness.

Martha West was born and raised in Letcher County, Kentucky. A junior at University of the Cumberlands, she is set to graduate in Spring 2019 with degrees in English and Public Health. She plans to write literature about the Appalachia culture that she was raised in, and the history of her people.