The Croupier God (prose poem)

The croupier god comped me a suite at The Palace, (offseason), and led me through the hallways personally, making smalltalk, explaining how the elevators work, keeping a steady pace while his scuffed rake dangled from a black elastic loop sewn custom into the lining of his white suit jacket. He opened the coded door for me, (first try), deciphered the thermostat, unstuck the drawers, programmed the remote to new, in-house channels, and turned the well-dressed bed down.

He said, “This luxury is where you lie.”

He handed me a gold card with my name embossed, black laurel in the upper right corner framing a female silhouette with an EZ-Read magnetic strip on the backside hovering over a hotlist of company-owned joints.

He said, “This is how we feed you for free.”

He strummed his swarthy fingers over an orderly row of three-score and ten play-worn purple checks arranged in an open, unfinished wooden box lined in remnant green felt and set on top of the empty honor bar.

He said, “And these? These are a very good start.”

-M. Ashley

As of today, this poem is ten years old. Crazy crazy crazy. Happy New Year everyone!

Gratitude My Love Song (poetry)

Gratitude, my love song to you
Love is patient and many-faced
Teaching me miraculous compassion
You sing it back to me

Love is patient and many-faced
May I, un-healed, go with you healing
You sing it back to me
May I, restless, with you bring rest

May I, un-healed, go with you healing
Safe and still my tempest past
May I, restless, with you bring rest
Just and safe my Now

Safe and still my tempest past
Teaching me miraculous compassion
Just and safe my Now
Gratitude, my love song to you.

-M. Ashley

God at the Cake Case (poetry)

We didn’t see—we sensed him
Black hair, caramel skin, dressed in blue and black
Lovely voice, petite man, graceful hand
Magically he opened the cake case from the front

Black hair, caramel skin, dressed in blue and black
Delighted ladies sighed in surprise
Magically he opened the cake case from the front
He did it for the delighted ladies’ sighs

Delighted ladies sighed in surprise
He said he’d die if he had to…
He did it for the delighted ladies’ sighs
…Go in from the back every time

-M. Ashley

Conception (poetry)

Purple kangaroo wine, cheap and bitter
Gratitude shouts louder than a flash flood warning
Climax withheld for one notch less drunk than this
Red solo cup abandoned on the windowsill

Gratitude shouts louder than a flash flood warning
Half full of wine–collecting rain
Red solo cup abandoned on the windowsill
Pajamas and flip flops in a tangle by the bed

Half full of wine–collecting rain
God’s body happens where lightning strikes something
Pajamas and flip flops in a tangle by the bed
Only one window opens wide enough

-M. Ashley

Czar of the Heavens

“…but I resisted the thought of a Czar of the Heavens, however loving His sway might be.”
-Bill W., “Bill’s Story,” Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 12

I have chronic PTSD nightmares. I woke up from a particularly bad night—screaming screaming screaming—orange and red death screaming all night—and when I took my pup out for potty, I saw that her pee spot, over time, had formed an unmistakable heart on the pavement. An unmistakable heart with dog plops scattered about.

I sat on the edge of the brick planter box watching her squat, my arms wrapped tight around me, still shaking a little, and I smiled. I hadn’t the energy to laugh, but here was the Czar of the Heavens laughing for me.

How loving is the sway of this Czar that he would draw with his own shining finger a dog piss heart for me while my horror was screaming in my sleep? Pretty damn loving.

“I love you,” says this Czar, “even when things are shitty, and maybe especially then. This heart isn’t drawn around the shit. It’s drawn right thought it.”

-M. Ashley

Alcoholics Anonymous
Overeaters Anonymous

A Dictionary of Angels

Is in the boring section where
The bright kids go
Bright and boring is the book
They whisper over, holy thing
Bright, boring, book bound
Just like the angels they read about.

Not that I have a hangup about
Angels. If only their books were
Dark and dusty, we might know
Each other better. But I
Bet there are boring dark spots
Too. I have to bet because who
Would know? The spots are dark
Dark as a yawn
Dark as the inside of a
Closed fist. Dark as a book
Bound mind. Dark as a priest’s dark closet

Not that I have hangups about
Priests either. Or hangups
About what they hang up in
Their dark, yawning closets

Skeletons on pink padded
Hangers, white ribboned
Rose and garlic sachets
Tied around their necks?

-M. Ashley

Learning to Live Without (poetry)

I wonder whether the casket lid is
A death trap like those recalled
Drop side cribs that snatched
Babies into the jaws of death

But if it is a death trap, it isn’t
Inappropriate for this funeral
Where my little Christ-love lay
Blessed barely an age
Before being laid to rest with
All this ceremony. All this
Ceremony. I’m going to miss this
And funeral/baptism cake and potatoes
Going off into the worldly world
Christ-love less. Loving without
Magic underwear and ordinations
And special water and oil
For anointing and dove
Down comforters and man—
That casket crib was chock full of stuff
I think I can live without.
I think
I think I can live without.

-M. Ashley