Please Don’t Stop Writing (creative nonfiction)

It is hard not to get sentimental when talking about my teachers. I have so many well-worn anecdotes. I’ve gone through them all so many times verbally, it seems they would be a complete bore to talk about. There is one though that I think I only ever jotted notes down about once. It’s often too much.

At first, I hated my poetry professor at Vanderbilt, Professor Daniels. She was hard on me. She spanked my ego good and I didn’t like it. I thought I was some kind of hot shit going into her class, and man oh man, did I find out otherwise. She was cold and exacting and had no warm and squishies for me whatsoever. Even after I earned a modicum of her respect, I was still nervous around her. I would drop things and turn around in circles trying to find my chair. It was perpetually like being on a first date.

She was a tiny woman, apparently a lot older than I thought she was. I made a reference to an 80’s band once and she said she wouldn’t know anything about it when here I had assumed she was only maybe a decade older than I was. For all her hardness, there must have been a youth about her I perceived. My legally blind eyes could not see her wrinkles so my mind registered her as a bitter eighties Gen X St. Elmo’s Fire type instead of ex-hippie observer and poetry writer-abouter.

I was being abused at home. I met her at the grocery store, me wearing a full length houndstooth wool coat in 80 degree heat to cover the bruises and burns. She pulled her cart up next to mine. She took time to talk to me. I told her I had to leave Vanderbilt, which was very hard. She said to me, pleading, “Please don’t stop writing.” It stays with me, that she would plead with me this way. I keep it in my own head when I’m about to give up.

Maybe I don’t talk about it because I can never quite get the emotion of it. I always seem to need to invent a touch of hands or squeeze of the wrist to go with it. The truth is, she didn’t touch me at all. Or at least, I think that’s the truth. The memory is fuzzy. I think I have been lying to myself for so long in my memory about that touch, that I truly don’t know anymore. Knowing her character though, I don’t think there was one, which makes my soul burst with longing.

-M. Ashley

I am going to start including audio recordings of me reading my posts for my visually impaired friends, or really anyone who enjoys what I hope will be a good listen. Being visually impaired myself, I’m a little ashamed I’ve had this blog for a million years and am only thinking of this now. Hear it here:

Pleasant Girls (creative nonfiction)

Anger wakes me up at night. I have stuffed it. I have eaten it. I have forced myself to sleep through it. My dreams bring it out of me no matter how hard I fight against it.

I scream at my sister. I scream and shake my fists at my brother-in-law. I break up with my best friend. I cry out of frustration. I pound my fists on my ex. Sometimes I pound my fists on my god.

I wake up and my heart is beating fast. I sweat. I breathe hard. Sometimes I cry. I am a cliche. The sadness stays with me throughout the day.

I am angry and I am sad that I’m angry.

I’m a nice girl. I’m well-behaved and, despite the odd mood, I’m laid back and easy to get along with. Nice, pleasant girls don’t feel rage.

I’ve heard men say they don’t get angry. They say they get annoyed or irritated, but not angry. They, I think, have nothing to get angry about. Not all men—the abusers who have smiled at us pleasant girls and said they don’t get angry. Even while they beat us well behaved girls, they say, they don’t ever get angry. Not really.

-N. Ashley

An Empty House

Windows with closed mouths
Wallpaper scrubbed clean
An antique porcelain tub
Where no one drowned
An unfinished basement
Where no one clawed and cried
No horrors under the floorboards
No broken furniture to remember
No shadows in the closets
No starvation in the dining room
Unused door locks
Original doors
Gently closed


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.