Self-Portrait: 2022 Is Also All About My Hair

“There is a lot of breakage.” Don’t we all feel that way?

I balked when she said it and immediately went to defend myself. It must be the scrunchie I had near permanently in my mop since the beginning of the pandemic. It’s because I hadn’t had it cut since then. It’s because the hair is in terrible condition because of pandemic neglect and not, dear gods, because it’s falling out. It’s just broken not heading for the hills. It’s just broken, not endangered. It’s just broken—more, healthy, unbroken hair is just behind it.

I got it cut in December 2021 and I feel like a human again. The broken hairs are still broken, but the unbroken ones are no longer frayed like D-grade straw, looking like a witch’s hair. Gods, was I ever embarrassed when I walked my straw haired witch’s self into the Great Clips and asked them to whack the mess off. The stylist was understanding, matter of fact as the hay hit the floor, and gave me a marvelous new start, jawline length, relief from all the burden of the last two years that had fallen well past my shoulders and almost all the way down to my waist.

So the broken ones are still broken, but they’re also still growing and now don’t have so far to go to catch up to their unbroken sisters. The mop isn’t so long that I have to keep it up in a scrunchie anymore. I don’t have to be bound all the time. No more mass breakage is imminent. 2022 is going to be a good year.

How much further can I carry this hairy pandemic metaphor? Let’s see:

The thing about the short curly hair is that there is no second chance. There is no second day hair so, if you’re going somewhere, if anyone else is meant to see you, you must must must take care of it day by day. It’s a hassle when we’ve all gotten so used to not caring much about ourselves as we huddle and hide away. But also a sign of health, this hassle, and anything, even if it’s vanity, that forces you to bathe and primp and proper yourself, is a good thing and a godsend in a time when it’s far too easy just to let go.

With the short curly do that gives no second chances, I wake up from tossing nights looking like Einstein. That’s why I was able to come up with such completely original, genius, and insightful observations about the pandemic vis-a-vis my hair.

Original, I tell you. Original.

I wish you all the best and healthiest in 2022. My goal is to be here more and make more super genius and purely original observations with both my words and my art, photographic and otherwise. My goal is to read more of your work as well. My hope is we will inspire each other. My hope is we will inspire each other enough so as to give each other the tingles. My hope is we will inspire each other enough that, tingling together, it makes our collective hair, broken and unbreakable, stand on end.

-M. Ashley

Photo: My submission for this week’s 52 Frames challenge, “Self-Portrait” I’m calling it “Gallows Humor.” Taken with an iPhone 10. Flash did not fire.

Hibiscus Kissed

This January hibiscus bud
Kissed by absence of color
My albino fingers exploring the
Hard petals the shy face of
A goddess willing to be
Searched blindly by the blind
Whose blindness comes from
Looking too much into the light.

-M.

Photo Poetry: God Flower

Shadow at the tips and
Shadow at the center like
A god who is honest about
What it means to be a god.

Absence
Presence

Glory
Absence

-M.

I am legally blind so I know—photography is a weird sport for me. What I am finding so lovely about it though is that I am often capturing with the camera things I would have never seen with my naked eye. To me, in the bright day, this gazania looked like a simple white blur on a field of messy green. It wasn’t until I got home and started working with the picture that I saw all it’s beautiful purple and that soft explosion of orange at the center. I look forward to many more visual surprises the camera is bound to catch for m.

Photo Prose: Dread Box

Picking up any pen is hard. Opening my notebook is one of the Herculean trials—the hard one.

Getting past the rickety-ness is worse still. It’s like hearing Atlas’ ancient knees pop as he hefts the Earth one more day. One more day. One more day.

I dread goals. I dread the lazy, yawning “what next” after I reach one. I dread not reaching any.

I dread being a flake—but worse, a joyless flake. No one loves a joyless flake like no one loves a fat person who is not jolly. I dread also being the fat person who is not jolly.

I dread my credit card payments. I keep my dreaded credit cards under my dreaded pens to keep me from the dreadful using them.

I keep lip balm under the dread pens and cards. Most of all, I dread being kissed unready.

-M.
Photography Playbook Prompt: Something you dread.

Photo Poetry: I Must Burn

Arrogance reaching
back a hollow throat

tells Her the gifts
you gave me

aren’t
good enough.

The path you
laid too

clear.
The dark you

made to lathe
my wounds in

much
too soft.

Give me
the sun.

I must blister.
I must burn.

-M.
Photo Prompt: Your Dark Side

I had fun with this one. I used a fish eye lens—my first successful experience with that. I played with the color a little in processing, but most of that is the natural light that comes in my office through the dark pink drapes.

I did a lot of selfies first, (the one below I like a lot), and I seemed to get a good bead on “depression” which is certainly a darker side of me, but I think the sad arrogance I got in the first photo is far more on point when it comes to personal darkness.

Sort of weird to start the year on the dark side, but I can say the bright side it exposes is knowing that even though I am low vision, I can find fun and creative expression in photography that is meaningful to me. May your 2021 be marvelous and full of opportunities to let your creative light shine.

Artless Grief

Photography Playbook Prompt: Something you covet

I’ve had personal disasters
gluing a doily to the back of
a dollar store glass plate
Jesus quote sandwiched
In between. I cried

in front of my mother’s
church ladies, all
wrinkled and off center
the doily I mean. My

mother quilts dreams
and sews inspiration for
the whole of the female
church body. I unspool

thread everywhere and
haven’t the gift to finish the
thread things I start. I
couldn’t running backstitch
my way out of a wet
paper bag. What sort of a

Woman am I? My hands make
words not things. By the Word
the world was formed says He
who IS the church body. He
can’t understand my artless grief

who died for our sins yet still
found the time to craft the
mountains and thread the stars.

-M.
(Photography Playbook Prompt: Something you covet.)

Aura Lit

Downtown
by the twilit
abandoned
occult shop

nestled next door
the blue lit
coffee spot

A man paces
the length
a white lit
parking spot

argues with air
bites it off

His aura

the blue lit
coffeehouse
witch kids clack

is black.

-M.

San Bernardino Christmas

We, none of us, have money
for this. We put up the cross, but
the garage door is still broken.

The cross leans back like a goal
post about to be torn
asunder by the underdogs who
have won the game at last.

We may not be winning
the game at last, but we know
how to tear shit down
even and especially if
it’s our own.

The city tree that was already
dead in October from heat and
disease and not Mother Nature’s
glorious turning—we
put three black sparkly
ornaments on it for Halloween.

Child thieves stole two of them
that night—probably the only real
treat in their lifeless bags.

They Left one out of guilt or
respect.

Out of guilt or
respect,

we left that one there
for Jesus.

-M.
66 Day Poetry Habit: Day 1

Not “My” but “Our” Worst Fear

Photo Prompt: What is your worst fear?

Let’s get vulnerable with each other. Let’s get naked and play the mirror game. Let’s do it in front of a group of twenty-somethings with their whole brilliant lives ahead of them. Let us let them sit cross-legged in a circle around us and let us let them bombard us with questions as we try to mirror each other’s movements exactly.

We’ll have to answer honestly and be beastly to ourselves in this game because it is impossible to lie focused only on each other, move for move, even down to the twitch in the corner of my mouth and yours when someone lazily lobs, “What is your worst feat?”

We say, “This.”

We are afraid of this. We are afraid of only ever being as good as each other, locked in the hopelessness of leprous perfectionism. Not singly—mutually. Each other’s. Always each other’s.

We are afraid of this: falling short, move for move, in each other’s eyes forever.

-M.

Too Much Time Like Too Much Money

Photo Prompt: Parameters

Having too much time is like having too much money—it’s an asshole thing to complain about, but still a problem.

Whoever painted this mystery on my street—likely an alien—knew clearly where she was going and clearly where everyone else should be and what we all should avoid. She knew to tell everyone that if they dug here, something terrible would explode. Warning was the alien’s meaningful work.

She wrote: It would all go down in February.

Someone who came after—likely a human, likely me with my one blue running foot rudely in the shot—must have had too much time on her hands—an asshole problem—and, grasping around for something to fill her hours, investigated the alien’s code, aware only of its mystery and not its warning. She must have taken the arrow to indicate her life path and dug there foolishly—hoping to find her purpose entombed in the asphalt. Instead, our Pandora released the malicious thing, nailing her, the wise alien, and everyone else who had heretofore been busy.

It all went down in February.

Every now and then she comes out to kneel by the blackened hole in the cracked and cracking street. She cranes her neck to observe the bloom of the mushroom cloud she made and picks gravel from under her unmanicured nails. Locked down like all of us, she has all the time in the world for this.

She wonders dangerously, “What now?”

-M.