Perpetrators, Mourn for Yourselves (poetry)

Maybe that’s the hazard in not caring
who the person is inside the meat
you’re butchering. You never know
if that cow is sacred and capable
of reincarnating herself into a fire-
breathing she-bull and reducing you
and your world to ash and manure

to be forked into the compost pile with
all the rest of the world’s shit—used
to grow whatever nasty things can grow

blooming weeds that grow on the empty graves of
all the other calfs you slaughtered
who have since risen in rage at the she-bull’s call.

Mourn for yourselves at those empty graves
putrid ashen shit flowers, droop and die
cycle through your agony endlessly.

-M. Ashley

Hear me read it:

Achieving Adulthood (poetry)

The night you find yourself alone
outside an emergency room
with a concussion
in a bad part of town
having paid a bill
you can’t afford to pay
waiting for a cab and shivering
because it’s February
and you left your coat at work

which is where you were injured
which is where you left blood
on the ground
which is where the first words
out of your boss’ mouth
were to inform you
and your involuntarily closing eyes
that if you reported it
the safety record would be ruined
and no one
would get a pizza party
after all.

-M. Ashley

I still feel guilty about messing up the pizza party. Hear me read it:

So-Mi-So (poetry)

for Z. Bayor

Patting his bowling ball belly,
my Hungarian violin teacher would say,
“This is my integrity!” then laugh
and point to places in the music
where it was OK for me to blink.

It was a perfectionist problem, he declared,
knowing better. “A perfectionist problem!”
why I kept my eyes open, why I cried
when I played, why I was “Masterful!”
he said, at shoving my shoulders
into my ear canals—why he trotted out
his “integrity” regularly to buy my smile.

Trust your bright hands can handle things
when you need to close your eyes.
He rested his celebrated fingertips
on my right shoulder.

“You don’t have to go any faster than this.”
He rocked with me like he used to
with his lucky daughters and sons.

And he sang,


-M. Ashley

Another one I found buried deep in my notebook. I miss this man. If only I could do a Hungarian accent! Hear me read it:

Desolation (poetry)

Walking tired the plains of Desolation,
a lost man lowers himself hard to the earth.
A woman comes to sit beside him.
This is her home and she is not lost.

She uncovers his face,
pulls his shaming hands away.
She has drawn dust angels for him
with her clay-covered toes.

He sees them and sees they are miraculous—
her toes
and the way her naked legs lay
parallel to the angels’ outstretched wings.

And he tells her she is beautiful.
And she does not believe him.

-M. Ashley

Hear me read it:

Blue Light Therapy (poetry)

Artificial light blue to beat the blues
Try no sugar in your cookie, Cookie
Cutter approaches don’t often
Help problematic inflammation in the gray
Matter of fact exercise
Is another lever we can pull
Me closer Dr. Beautiful Blue Eyes
Blue—nothing artificial about you-ooh
Tell me again
How the mental health benefits of exercise
Cap at thirty minutes so I can
Lap my sad to death in the
Beautiful chlorine blue.

-M. Ashley

(Found this one buried in my notebook. I had almost forgotten about it. One of my very favorites.)

Hear me read it:

Darling (poetry)

His senses perk
to the smell of green grass
in a fertile garden, the light
of a broad path made plain,
a promising crack in the wall,
and the laughter
of better women echoing.

The one beside him mercifully
slips his fingers.

The one beside him mercifully

Leave me a kiss for my collection,
here in the tender crook of my arm,
and remember me sometimes
that I was your Darling
in the dead and lonely place.

-M. Ashley

Little Porn Store on Highland Ave. (poetry)

Le Sex Shoppe, San Bernardino, CA (now abandoned)

In a bigger city, later in life, I would visit
the first floor of World’s Largest Porn Store
and, the same evening, all three floors
of the purple neoned Madame X.
On this day, however, a little after 1pm,
Bill and I pulled into the parking lot
of the little porn store on Highland,
the one we grew up walking past
with its cream painted windows,
wind beaten sign, and handy bus stop access.
He and I sat in his red secondhand Jeep
with the engine running and air conditioning on,
“I will if you will” daring each other to go in.

But then we had to get going
or we’d miss sixth period gym.

-M. Ashley

San Bernardino Postcard (poetry)

A line of palm trees standing demure
before the great purple face
of the city’s eponymous mountains
god-gifted with resort quality snow.

Behind the trees, glinting and sprawling
like the many mansions of God
are the warehouses of Stater Bros. markets,
their trucks lining the city’s eponymous avenue
ready to serve it first, before serving the rest
of the southern half of the state.

Industry portrait
of one local boy
done good—
chamber picture
of the wished-for city.

-M. Ashley

A Pound of Gold (poetry)

“My poor world!” I want to say,
as I sit here surrounded by abundance.
We’re poor until we aren’t and then
sitting in a room full of gold like
Scrooge’s Money Bin we wonder
why the gold isn’t at least one foot
deeper so we could move our diving board
one foot higher and get that extra
adrenaline rush as we free-fall
further into the abundance for which
we are never quite grateful enough.

We hit the pile of gold like a ton of bricks
(Family Guy did a cutaway about that—
great minds…). We aren’t made of feathers
like Scrooge McDuck, so we platz
and break all our bones when we intended
to dive in and swim through, sensuously.

There is this riddle about what weighs more:

a pound of gold or a pound of feathers.
A pound is a pound
unless you’re talking about the pound
of flesh that hit the unforgiving gold.

-M. Ashley