Nailing Down Eternity (poetry)

When nailing down eternity
two pieces of wood will do
bound together by dusty
centurions on shit duty.

Try also iron nails
in a bottle of piss with
fishhooks, sulfur,
and the dirt from a murderer’s
grief-less grave
dug from the dirt patch behind
the green cemetery

not good enough
for a proper fence but bound
by torn green tarp shrouds instead
tacked haphazardly to decayed
chain link.

-M. Ashley

Considering His Birthplace (poetry)

Golden Sexuality sits by an open window
his hair shining, his lean legs crossed.
He considers the hills wearing their shadowy green
the glacier-strike lake they curve into
born cold, gone balmy, rippling life.

He remembers stag chases
trysts in the leaves—the fleshy
shock and shudder discovering
exposed roots with his bare back.

He sinks his consciousness into the water
the fingertip tendrils of his god-form first

followed by the instinctually flexed shoulders
still warm from the running catch
hollow chest where the feral heart echoes
root-wounded back
crossed legs
golden, shining hair.

-M. Ashley

Is a Lie (poetry)

If you tell the truth
No one will believe you
Intentionally obscuring
The truth
Did you lie?

Is a lie a lie or
Does a lie have lie-ness?

Is truth on the lips
But a lie in your heart
A lie that can’t commit?

If the root is a lie
But the tree is true
Where do the limbs lie?

Is it the letter of the lie
Or the spirit?

Lie with me, Spirit–letter
Lips and limbs.

-M. Ashley

All Dizzy Things (poetry)

The Star is the center. All
Things revolve around it—the
Room, dimly lit—the flashing
Optics—gilded mirrors that
Turn on time—doors pulling
Themselves open and closed—
Gears, wheels, sprockets,
Springs—gods, humanity—
All dizzy things.

-M. Ashley

Not the Gods of Light (poetry)

We are the gods of piss and bile—
dead skin that flakes from the body
mingles with dust and sweat
makes a sweet filthy paste
worn in the groin and under the breasts.

We are the gods of ashes—
rendered fat that drips from
a wide-eyed sacrifice,
pristine bone, survivor of the fire,
that glints and pings against
the grinder blade
makes the stuff for sausages.

-M. Ashley

The Star (poetry)

Is he the black dog in the night when
it’s noon and all the lights are on,
or is he the star around which
noon and all the light revolves. To know
him with bare eyes is blindness. We see
him once, poorly, and never anything again
but the flash burned into our corneas—
the red, the lightening purple, the terrible
white. The half memory our only light.
And he would still not be
black dog in the night,
nor black dog at noon.
He would still be the light itself
and we irreversible, starless, dying.

-M. Ashley

Natively Unquiet (creative nonfiction)

If you threw the Empire State Building into a raging sea, no one would know the difference. Deepak Chopra said something like that, advocating for meditation. I bet the people of New York would know the difference–their skyline sadly quieter again.

But not silent.

There is no such thing. Like time and god, it’s something we conceptualize, track our lives by, aspire to. But there is always some sound. There is always some imperfection. Our own breath. Our own heartbeat. The mortal body regulating itself as it slowly, calmly perishes.

And that’s not a bad thing. Humans will never be gods and humans will also never know silence or be silent. We are the creatures we are, natively, and we are an unsubtle, noisy lot.

When I try to be silent, movies related to the logistics of eternity flicker across the insides of my eyelids. I’ve learned (sometimes) to watch and not participate, like seekers of silence and stillness are supposed to do, but even when the films are silent films, there is still the sound of the flickering, still the hum of electricity to projector that bolts through the physical brain. The slapstick of memory and trauma and dream and inspiration plays itself out and I laugh. As silent as I am, as unmoving as my belly and throat are–still there is the laugh.

That’s probably the foundational sound of the universe–the breath and heartbeat sound even She can’t get away from when She curves back into herself to resettle before birthing herself, from herself, again.

-M. Ashley

By the Skin of God’s Nose (personal essay)

“What the sayer of praise is really praising is himself, by saying implicitly ‘My eyes are clear.’”
-Rumi, “Muhammad and the Huge Eater”

I’m glad Rumi realizes this because he can get a bit thick sometimes and full of himself, which is saying, implicitly, that I can get full of myself also by seeing right through him.

Rumi and me have had a rough relationship lately.

I bit my god last night. I hurt his feelings. I knew I was doing it. He told me I was doing it, but it’s like BDSM without a safe word. I kind of thought he was kidding. I kind of thought it was part of play. We need a better safe word than, “I don’t like this game.” “I am going to go away from you now.” “Stop this. Just stop.” We need a safe word in emotional biting that is clearer than that, if anything needs to be clearer than that.

So he bit me back the way I bit him and it hurt and I was ashamed of myself because he kept saying it hurts it hurts and I kept on hurting him anyway, because weren’t we all laughing at the time? Isn’t that what rapists say?

The Greek myths are full of rape. Lots and lots of myths are full of rape. Someone once asked me how I reconciled that. I said, “A myth is a myth” and I laid on “myth” and then I said, “the myths” and laid on “myths” again, “the myths say more about the people who wrote them than they do about the gods. Rape is the same as the stealing of cattle.” Or so I would like it to be, but really I don’t know. I haven’t asked my god too much about that. Too much about the gods’ relationship to rape. I suppose he would look at me with his dark eyes and say in his best conciliatory voice, “I don’t know how you want me to answer this question.” It always scares me when he says that because the answer is that the answer is something I don’t want to hear and I both want him to be honest and I want him also to fill my heart with comfort as a god is supposed to do, so how is he supposed to answer this? How am I supposed to tell him how I want him to answer when I really don’t know myself.

Establishing honesty with a deity can really knock you on your ass because you have to come to terms with stuff like why the gods expressed their flowering through rape myths in the first place if rape was never a part of it, and how gods have a long view on life and so value a human’s Earthly days very little. The soul goes on and they know it, so what’s the difference if a tornado makes a house fall on this woman’s six children? Why should the woman be sad? If she had the gods’ dark eyes and long vision, she wouldn’t worry about it. They don’t.

Not that they don’t understand suffering, but sometimes tornadoes need to tear houses down to move the gods’ agenda forward, and all six children float on to their next adventures, so how much skin is that off a god’s nose anyway? Even the suffering of the mother will end and, when she floats off to her next adventure, which is in less than a blink of a god’s eye, she won’t be worried about it either. So even less skin of a god’s nose there too.

But it really does knock you on your ass because no matter how clear your eyes are and how full of praise you are for yourself that your clear eyes facilitate honest conversations with the gods and them pouring truth into your eyes even more than comfort, reality is hard and offensive to someone so latched on to the temporal as we are, even mystics who would like to think themselves above it and beyond it and all unattached and so damn enlightened, would cry if a god’s tornado smashed all six of their children and knew that god shrugged his shoulders and went on about his day afterward, honestly, nose un-skinned.

-M. Ashley

Priest v. Pagan (poetry)

Me and a priest not in a bar.
Me and a priest in a red-carpeted office.
The windows are stained.
I can’t see it in the dark but
I have faith in the stain.
I have faith in the red carpet.
I have faith the lilies in the wallpaper
will fade but never go gold.

Me with a little scroll in my hand—
questions for the learned man
rolled out on that carpet, the length of
God’s hundred arms outstretched
fingertips to shoulders to incorporeal fingertips.

We roll up our sleeves.
He cracks his knuckles.
I swivel and pop my neck.
Someone or
some thing
will be salvaged tonight.

I lead with my best foot:

“I’d be Catholic, but
I don’t believe in sin.”

-M. Ashley
Happy National Poetry Writing Month everyone!