Gods of the Inland Empire (poetry)

Of the Smoggy Valley—mountains, desert, ocean—
whichever climate you like
within an hour.

Of the sacred gray arteries—bloody asphalt—
broken glass shimmering in the shoulders—jaw-dropping
overpass knots.

Of the train that no longer whistles
the graveyard where railroad men rest—
the abandoned Catholic hospital
where railroad men were born

Of gunshots in the night—the green and
black—the godly ghetto birds—
NightSun—criminals who cannot hide.

Of skinny backyard coyotes—un-collared dogs
left to roam the neighborhood—the scarred
faces of little children mauled on their way to school
making the national news.

Of the withering Empire
of “these gangs came from LA”
of “we’re number 1 again!—
most dangerous city in the US.”

Of everybody’s got to proud of something.

Of heavy lungs
Of visible heat
Of prostitutes who stroll anyway—
immigrant tweens who twist their ankles
spiked heels stuck in the melted asphalt.

Of “this way to Vegas”
Of “this way to the baptismal sea”

Of kissing the corpse’s mouth

Of lying with it
one more night.

-M. Ashley

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

Civilized (poetry)

If the ill-formed shadow-mass of “the civilized”
drives your wild heart to rage and howl
you know it goes on beating.

Though deprived of the lucid heat
of blood-hunts in broad daylight
it stalks within itself and becomes

its own series of revelations—
its own wastes
its own benighted hollows.

The sheep’s clothes hang heavy
but the flocks still fear you sleeplessly—

your shadow-cast
causes their lambs to quiver.

-M. Ashley

Wax (poetry)

Every two weeks I pay a college senior
(engineering major I believe) to rip
most of my eyebrows out of my face.

The right one always comes out higher,
arched more elegantly than the left.

“It’s the way your face is constructed”,
she tells me, as if an accusation of
the original engineer’s design.

I nod—a permanent inquisitiveness
in relief
over my right eye.

-M. Ashley

Bossy Bird (poetry)

There is always one
bossy ass bird. He digs himself
a naked hole in the dense
mockorange, puffs out his chest and
sings at 11. The sparrows who live there
too roll their eyes and go on
about collecting tufts of red dog
hair from between the fence slats
to make their nests luxurious—
and soundproof.

-M. Ashley