Missing Frank Bidart (poem)

Oh my poet-y friend… how I have missed thee.
I have missed myself defacing your books with
Purple ink notes like, “Love it!” and “Scary.”

Remember that time I humiliated myself on a
Plane pompously overblowing poetry to a
Stranger who turned out to be a PhD in poetry

My nose in your book
My ass on my shoulders
Me talking out of it

But then you were there for me
For that—for my ass face too
And my starry eyes for you.

-M. Ashley

Eau de Summer Camp (poem)

The base note has something to do with
sunscreen—a fair haired girl’s
most important piece of camping gear
next to bug spray
which is the sharp second layer of the scent.
The whiff of stiff, chlorinated towels,
unwashed and hot from the top
of the waist-high chain link fence
they were draped over to dry
completes the first perfumer’s chord.

For nuance, a drop of happy sweat
from happy children come to wash
their hands and faces with pink powdered soap
from lime green metal dispensers
hung over shabby sinks
on which daddy long legs perch
each rolling their eight dull eyes
at the rush and frivolity of the new generation.

-M. Ashley

Wet House in the Hungry Forest Where Girls and Boys Go to Die

There’s crying in the wallpaper that drips
July swelter. Little girls and little boys and
bigger girls and bigger boys go
here to die. I can feel them
everywhere. Their spirits
got loose but
they are as lost as I am in
this dripping house in
this heavy, hungry forest where no one would find
us, and
certainly no one would hear us and
they see this horror go down and
down and down and they want to take their
big eyes off if but they’re scared of the forest and
the wet in the forest and
all those millions of insects
ready to eat them alive and
pick their bones. I wish I could
tell them they don’t have meat and bones to
pick anymore and they can just go and
float up through the suffocating green and
god wants them
but I don’t know that.

-M. Ashley

Colleen Whose Name Means Girl

Maybe I should be out
Loud about it. Maybe I
Should talk. I know it
Sure would have helped me
A lot if the woman they
Kept in a box under the
Bed for seven years had
Been a little more chatty.

“These things do happen. They
Do.” We would commiserate
With each other through the
Knothole in her box and the
Keyhole in the door I was
Locked and chained behind

Also for seven years.

Lucky lucky.

“Colleen,” I would whisper so
The bad men wouldn’t hear.

Colleen whose name means
Girl

“Colleen,” I would whisper
“I get you Sister.
I do.”

-M. Ashley

If you are a survivor of sex trafficking, I cannot recommend the organization Journey Out enough. They have helped me tremendously and I am grateful every day that I found them.

Silent as Dogwood Snow

Dogwood snow in blue
Efficiency light, midnight
Red earth, grass, shadows
Receive the floral frost

I lie in blue efficiency
Light, midnight
In green satin pajamas on
Green, Spring grass

Shade trees hide the
Moonlight. Starlight too
Does not touch Earth
Here. Only my bare feet

My bare fingers, my
White light hair tangled
In green, Spring grass
And falling dogwood snow.

My bare feet bleed
This night, like so many nights
Having fled and found jagged
Gray rocks hidden in the grass

I have fallen here
My flight this night will be
Unsuccessful. He will find me
Anyway though I am green

In the green grass
White in the blue light
Red blood on red earth
Silent as dogwood snow.

-M.

Fruiting Body

Apple, pear, banana, orange, I
Used to be, profoundly, a pear—all
Ass and belly. My thighs were righteous
Too. Not that my boobs were small, per se,
Just smaller than the juicy bottom.

But I lost the weight—all the weight—and
More—and became ingloriously
An un-curved banana. I didn’t even
Know women could be bananas. That
Wasn’t ever on my lifelong, plus-
Sized, orange shaped radar. But there an
Inglorious banana was I
Standing at the mirror, bemoaning
My, let’s call them, “sugar spots.” My poor,
Pear peel, made for curves, never quite fit
The banana right, and was far too
Thin skinned for the picking. Picking and
Picking. Constantly picking. My best

Friend said that, skinny as I was, I
Resembled more an apple on a
Toothpick, (you see I have this giant
Melon head). She’s not that sour. I asked
Her in advance to tell me when my
Apple—melon—toothpick—weirdly-un-
healthy-looking-fresh-fruit-hors-d’oeuvre
Situation got out of hand. I

Rejected the banana. Or I
Should say the part of me that wakes up
At 1:30 every morning and
Eats guilty lemon Oreos in
The come-hither glow of an open
Refrigerator rejects the damn
Banana. The part of me that thinks—

The part that guilts innocent lemon
Oreos—dug her heels in, clung tight
To the un-curviness of it all,
The good clothes, the Big Why, fitting
My flat ass into tight spaces for
once, and managed to think, pick, fret, pick,
constantly picking—pick its way to
Gaining back a third of what I lost.

I did not become a pear again.
I became a fatter banana.

Peace unto the fatter banana.
My melon head is, again, to scale.
Let lemon Oreos be pardoned.
Let me slip comfortably into my
New, thicker peel. Let me savor all
My sugar spots. Let me go un-picked.

-M.

Nashville Summer at Night

A soul heavy as wet July.

Steam rising from the grass

lazily curling and uncurling its come-hither fist

in blue efficiency streetlight.

Windows fog over

in droplet-streaming screens obscuring

the midnight hush-your-mouth in each

of a line of bricked and columned houses.

This is a city morally opposed to sidewalks,

where stoplights go down at eleven.

This is a city whose treacherous shoulders I trudged

for a decade in the dark.

-M.

Desert Storm at Eleven (poem)

2243636-3239456630_c064f895b6In the back bedroom at the little
fold down desk eating my snack
of a Ding Dong and room temperature
Diet Cherry Pepsi
annoyed at the immovable maps and
call-in bomb-dodging journalists
soaking up the screen where my
Beverly Hills Teens and She-Ra should be.
Especially She-Ra.

She
more than the bomb-dodging journalists
was type for the writer
I wanted to be one day.

-M.