Art, Body Acceptance, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Mental Health, Prose

My Eternal Creative Space

I am working with an art therapy book geared toward body acceptance and the first art prompt was to depict our ideal creative space. I think the idea was to draw what houseplants and implements and draperies we would like in our art room, but this is what I came out with instead. It may not be a still life style depiction of what my ideal creativity space would look like–I would never be able to realistically draw a grand piano, an ancient viola, stacks and stacks of sheet music, an art table big enough to lie down on, cement floor to make messes easier to be messy, a photo studio, a recording studio, a big sink, every brush and paint and crayon and color and implement known to man, redwood tall shelves of books, red velvet chairs, open atlases mapping out all the adventures I’ve had and am yet to have, and above it all, the ceiling painted with the zodiac so I have a mapped out sky and eternally turning fate overhead always–I may not be able to realistically draw any of that, but what I did come up with accurately represents what would be going on in that space in the ether, among all that glorious stuff while the art was happening. There would be the spirit of Mercury, planet and god, and a Valentine from him charged electric positive and negative. There would be wild hair–my hair–probably red and black paint in my wild white hair. There would be me looking through my glasses, their dark frame the slightly warped symbol for infinity. My poodle, blue in this drawing for tranquility, would be there nosing my hands across the page in smarter directions than I would have ever thought of on my own. The numbers 12 and 21 would likely pop up everywhere, mysteriously as they do in every corner of my life already. The technological universe is coded on 0 and 1. My little universe is 1 and 2. There is eternity everywhere! The ouroboros, the dense spiral in Mercury’s head, the glasses… And yellow sunny swirls all over and underneath because this is Apollon and the Muses’ space as much as, if not more than mine. And finally, a treble clef because, in this space, everything sings.

-M. Ashley

Formal Verse, Humor Poem, Memoir Poem, Poetry

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.

Memoir, Prose

How Do My Breasts Look? (memoir)

go_cougar_womens_tshirtMy first boyfriend and I sweat together in my room with the door closed and his hand under my navy blue “Go Cougars!” T-shirt. I lay on the floor halfway underneath him, one of his creeping hands at the waistband of my white cotton shorts, the other pushing my shirt up. His alien fingers probed their way under the pale pink of my little girls’ bra that had been too tight for months. He didn’t kiss me. He gave me a hickey on my midriff instead and smiled, proud of himself the way he and his friends were often proud of their own farts. He got serious then and tugged at the band of my bra. I lay there bare-chested for the first time with a boy, still wearing my T-shirt that was now rolled up under my chin. He unceremoniously pinched my left nipple, then my right, frowned and announced, “Your boobs look funny.”

I don’t need a whole essay to tell you I never got over that.

In my later teens I’d stand sometimes in front of my mother’s full-length bedroom mirror and pull my Garfield pajama shirt tight over my chest and belly to get a better view of the curve of my breasts in relation to my other curves. I’d shift right and left—diagonal—I’d bounce, look back over one shoulder, turn around with one arm up behind my head, but I couldn’t tell. I’d pull my shirt up and wonder for a while at my nipples. I couldn’t figure them out either. Too big? Too small? Too low? Too pale? I didn’t know.

I once used a French class report on impressionist artists as an excuse to look at a lot of paintings of naked women so I wouldn’t look like a perv for getting close to the page, squinting at them, and comparing. One red-haired woman, all in fading yellow light, a royal blue wrap around her shoulders and her white underthings visible at her waist, appeared to have breasts that went at near right angles at the bottom—her tan nipples pointing this way and that. I thought surely mine weren’t quite as different as that, and even then, some artist found hers beautiful.

When I got older, I got brave once and asked a lover what he thought of the funny-looking breast issue. I should have known I wouldn’t get a straight answer considering his face was between them at the time.

But maybe that’s my problem—thinking “No!” kiss, “Not at all!” nibble, “Absolutely not!” muffled through busy lips—was not a straight answer.

-M.