a play-poem in one act

Act One

Scene: A Prairie, open and sprawling. A run-down house on a patch of sun-cracked dirt, porch sagging, the screen door hanging by a single hinge. A young boy hanging laundry on a clothes line. A wolfhound old, wild, mangy.

Not far off, a fire raging across the plain, the dry grass fueling.


Kid’s table or
kids at a table
where they are ignored
by aunts or servers,
until they are noticed by
annoyed neighboring tables.
Complaints & heavy sighs & eye rolls.
What ever happened to the kid they used to be?


The kids we once were
are riding their bikes
down alleys of abandon.
You grew up. I refused.
Dilated dialogue into
mazed stories. Tell me, how
High are the bills piled?
What did you make for dinner?
How clean & empty is your plate?


There is no more trading your
for their jasper, or for lost
summer days by raging rivers and tempting
river boats.
Whitewashing means something different today.
I can throw away my plate because it
is paper,
or worse.
Cheap ceramic, new ones on sale
at some Walmart.
Plates are no longer treasures to


I fold paper plates into origami swans.
place them in canals disguised
as rivers. Watch them float, and soak
up water until they sink.

I dig graves for all the porcelain
I’ve lost. I break just to buy.

You tell me to clean my nails.
I beg you to get dirty.


Then promise me secret signals &
passwords, handshakes &
little gifts. What kind of dirty?
There is no drive or need to run whiskey or numbers
these days. Our lives are no longer
innocent, and our heresies are
profitable. Don’t blame
technology for our cleanliness.


I’ve never taken the time to place blame.
There’s a speakeasy under your floor-
boards where I polish glasses in my down time.
What kind of dirty is there
but teeth gritting – mind numbing self-control?

Day in, day out, I cut my fingers
on dollar bills left as a tip
of impression. I serve with a smile –
but pray to you:
What god judges
heresy other than ones who can’t
hear their call?
My knees are red from bending.
My fingers are cemented in intertwine.


Birth, or
or motherhood, or children, or
child rearing…anything other than childhood.
There is no god of childhood.
Childhood doesn’t need one, except
to tear off tie & Sunday shoes an hour after
service to run barefoot in the mud and chase
river boats. Don’t worship

Worship the child who lets their Sunday best
get covered in mud, who accepts the devil’s punishment
and does it again the following week.


We worship what we’ve lost.
In unbridled holiness – we’ve lost
everything, watched the House burn
to foundation, cursed the mud
that trapped our sanity.

I watch children play. Suit coats
ruined. Ties sway with gingered wind
and gentle break.

I do not miss what I do not know.

Please, come closer.
Whisper the devil in my ear.
Show me the ease of wanting.


We’ve too much sanity, and not enough devil
to race again, to rile against.
Sanity is what happens when we no longer need
the devil to regulate us. Mud never trapped it.
Mud helped us to let go of it. I’d be your devil
if you’d turn to rebel against me.


Rebellion leads to uprising.
I watch – out of focus –
soldiers in empty fields.
I leave the screen door open –
apron on – inviting the breeze
to dinner.

Can you feel the change?
The violation of natural law?
The devil stopped showing up
so much that we stopped setting
a plate.
We transform into
the things we need.

I find myself folded into the shape
of desire.

The only thing I want to raise –
is the soiled flag of unrest boiling
at the brink of you.


a play-poem in one act
-by Jess June & Ridire Quinn
photo by Jess June



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