Heavy Duty Cycle (poetry)

She sheds herself
one rough skin at a time,
drops them dripping into the hamper,
and, naked innards walking,
drags the dripping hamper
to a sly-smiled laundress
who has her discount ticket pre-filled.

“Heavy duty cycle,” she says,
“and remember,
hang is the only way to dry.”

-M. Ashley

If I Knew Brutus (poetry)

I dreamed of a very short person,
asking me if I knew Brutus.
Yes, I said, yes, yes I knew Brutus.
Et tu Brute, and all that,
chewed forever in the second mouth of Satan.
Yes, yes, I did. Brutus and I were familiar.
The short person, neither man nor woman,
older than young but not old, dark haired,
flailed wilder and screamed, No, no. No.
You do not know Brutus. Not that Brutus.
You do not know.

Now, of course, waking,
I worry about twenty-three stab wounds on the Senate steps.
I worry about most of them finding mark in my spine.
I worry about not being hero enough for my bloody back
to be counted a travesty. I worry about cruel gravity
pulling me into the arms of a son or daughter metaphorical
who I failed to acknowledge in real life,
and trading betrayal for betrayal with my child
by each other’s sticky, dilating eyes.

-M. Ashley

A Pound of Gold (poetry)

“My poor world!” I want to say,
as I sit here surrounded by abundance.
We’re poor until we aren’t and then
sitting in a room full of gold like
Scrooge’s Money Bin we wonder
why the gold isn’t at least one foot
deeper so we could move our diving board
one foot higher and get that extra
adrenaline rush as we free-fall
further into the abundance for which
we are never quite grateful enough.

We hit the pile of gold like a ton of bricks
(Family Guy did a cutaway about that—
great minds…). We aren’t made of feathers
like Scrooge McDuck, so we platz
and break all our bones when we intended
to dive in and swim through, sensuously.

There is this riddle about what weighs more:

a pound of gold or a pound of feathers.
A pound is a pound
unless you’re talking about the pound
of flesh that hit the unforgiving gold.

-M. Ashley

Dear Poetry Book Inside Flap Writer (poem)

I forgive you for being a pompous
Windbag and using words like “nexus”
That make us, and you, feel smarter
Than we are. I forgive you because
You’ve got to sell windy books
Somehow to equally windy people
And breezily walk the edge of
Overblowing it without, oops, I
Overblew it! You had to prevent us
Muffy and Buffy poetry reader
Types from seeing too much of
Ourselves at that blustery
“Nexus” of blew and blow
And putting the book down
And closing our handbag flaps
And whistling as we walk away.

-M. Ashley

A Drink with Houdini (poem)

My wine glass is a coffee mug
with handsome Houdini painted on,
tied up, cuffed, dipped upside
down in cold water. He’s got a face
like he’s sure he’ll get free, like
if he doesn’t, he’s sure he’s at least
immortal enough to be reborn one day
on a mug in the next millennium.

Houdini’s wine mug is tricky.
You pour the cheap stuff in
behind the antique-colored, faux
posters, and the wiry escapist
slips his bonds without a twitch.

Or, to be more accurate,
the bonds slip him. The handcuffs
disappear, the straight jacket undoes,
the lung-crushing water drains
into the polished black scrim
that works the inside of the cup,
into the pulse-lulling red
that sloshes behind it.

The bonds dissipate, almost,
and slink their way down my esophagus—
a rain of deconstructive intoxicants
to ensnare the presto hands
and abracadabra body
of the guilt I carry, at the bottom

-M. Ashley

Bliss in the Butter Keeper (poem)

I’ve had almonds today and chocolate and
dried cranberries and French press coffee
and a bit of a ham sandwich and real butter
on real bread. All signs point to the blissful Elsewhere
being right here in my cabinet with the chocolate

and nuts. Swimming around in the French
press before being all smashed to bitter
oil and wakefulness. Shivering in the fridge in
an off-brand baggie. Baked in an industrial oven.
Treading lukewarm water in the blue
porcelain butter keeper.

-M. Ashley

NaPoWriMo: We Prostitutes

We don’t look down on
each other here. This one forced
this one willing, this one forced
by force, this one forced by
circumstances, this one forced

and not knowing it, thinking that she,
in her non-stripper shoes, in control of
the chess board, receiving presents
is above it.

We all cry into the same
sweaty pillows.

-M. Ashley