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If there was another way to say it;
An easy way for you to understand...
I would not be pouring out these words
In an attempt to paint a picture.
I wouldn't be desperate to bottle
My emotions and thoughts
Into these stained glass letters,
With the tin syntax lid.
Poking holes through the top
Of my head,
So you could see.
Firefly ideas.

I am a photographer of hearts and minds.
The blood red room holds
My negatives.
How can I make them easier for you to see?
The composition so sweet,
The lighting so contrasted with
The shadows hiding the everyday.

What I really want you to do is stop reading.
Go look into the eyes of a lover.
Go hold a child's hand while they sing.
Listen to the wind change.
Feel the pulse of a city.
Cry with old wrinkled skin
For youth and life, and hope.

That is what my poem means.
It is a pulsing picture
Held captive in rhetoric.
When I think of the way we love
I spill Shakespeare like a fountain,
I spit rhymes like a rap star,
Words dance inside my chest.

Edith Piaf's lyrics hold the most acute reality
That I have to shut my eyes and sway
Translating the words is unnecessary.
The rhythm underneath holding all the meaning I need.

I can't compare thee to a summer's day;
You are most like a solid oak tree in my life...
An essential component to every season.
Adapting with a beauty all your own.

I don't only crave your mouth, your voice, your hair;
As Neruda would have you believe.
I crave your essence-
Found in the most precise way the your head twists
As you you you grow drowsy.
Only your eyes could reenact the look you have
When you're feeling most giddy.

Tupac Shakur and I "prayed and watched the distant stars",
And finally you appeared.
Shining so brightly I shut my eyes often,
Stunned by you.
Like a sunny day at the beach,
When you close your eyes and the sun's glow
Pushes against your eyelids; such is your love.

Pushing at the barriers
That keep my heart my own.
I want to stop the world and melt with you, forever.
I want you to know that even if you cannot hear my voice,
I'll be right beside you, dear.

Songs! Lyrics! Because if music be the food of love, PLAY ON!
And without borrowing other phrases,
I truly believe I was made for you and you for me.

No lyric I could sing,
No poem I could quote,
No metaphor I could construct,
and not even the bold truth of plain words
could EVER express how I feel for you.

But it doesn't stop me from trying.
I want to give you the luxury of taking the way I feel
about you for granted.

It will be that constant.
It will be that reliable.
It will simply be.
© Ashley Quarterman 2010
This upbeat-beat won't stop-
It's sound.
So tightly around-
My pulsing muscle's clenched veins.
This rain's
Leaving a rhythm!
I could dance-
Chance my-
Fighting back against this-
Wow, POW! BAM!

This tap tap tapping
Won't STOP.
And I've got-
This liquid laugh-
Flowing down.
I tremble.
This beating-
Heart won't stop stop-
Beating like feet tapping on tile.
All the while,
I float in and out of breaths
Like they're going out of style...

Like a bird chirp-
Deep within the pulsing.
Can't stop-
Dancing and singing
Though ringing
Go round
Inside of my ears.
And Biting
To just stop
This writhing!

Whispers in my ear...
And I fall, fall-
Don't dance! Ignore that pound-
Pounding sound.
Beat that beating,
And its tempting little-
What a great beat
Captured in a body.

I fought the war, and the war
My dearest love,
You make me want to punch you in the face.
Then throw a T-bone steak on it so it won't bruise,
And kiss it so it doesn't ache.

I will be your fiercest protector,
with sharpened words headed for any who doubt
your inescapable and obvious brilliance.
And I will tell you for the fifteenth time,
"No. It is not funny to put the cats on the top of the bookshelf...
no matter how cute their forlorn faces are."

You will be my shelter in times when
I can't feel happiness.
When I've gone off the edge again;
You will give me warmth.
Like a blanket.
...even though I steal the blankets at night,
and never wake up to your plea,
spoken with teeth chattering.

I will be the pain in your backside,
and you will be the lone pea
stuck between my mattresses;
We will constantly remind each other
of our presence.
Sometimes we'll just be there to say,
"I saw you. I was there. I'm a witness to your life."
Sometimes we'll say things like,
"I can't believe you thought putting the laptop
in the microwave was a good idea".

But always,
we will be there for each other.
Like a shadow,
or a stalker.

Or an old friend,
who made the very foolish mistake
of falling in love with you once,
And promised to do it again,
and over
and over,
©  Ashley Quarterman 2010
Whoever thought you could find such freedom
hidden in a steel cage?
The wind yelling in your ears?
The unearthly-
******* roar of the engine?

Speeding up to make a vain attempt
to catch your breath.
Scream your ecstasy
into the blurred images.

And all at once,
a heartbeat stops as the brakes squeal.
****** about
in and out
of your seat so fast
you get whiplash.

But the ache you feel later
reminds you of the pleasure of the chase.
I have all of a sudden completely realized,
I am getting married tomorrow.
In the morning.
In the city.
To you,
And I,
Don't see
Anyone else.
No one in the room.
Just you and your placid smile.
I am counting down the long, slow hours.
I am so nervously excited. :)
Sometimes I wonder
If when my parents first met me,
They spoke to God on bended knee
And said, "What on Earth is she?"
My mother's tongue loose
With the ever convincing persuasion
Of a more-than-her-share dose of medication.
My young father's frightened yet eager eyes,
Like getting a first glance at an unexpected surprise,
That you haven't figured out
Whether or not you can love yet.

And I was wrapped in the blanket
Of their nervous doubt-
But willingness to learn-
Presented to them though most showed concern
Over their lack of age and experience-
Of life.

I wish I had that moment in a bottle somewhere;
The electricity of their hope in me
Making waves on the air
And later as I wonder where-or why-
My mother hasn't shown up again,
Or how my father and I stopped being friends,
I go back there-to that moment-
And try to start all over.
When I picture my childhood;
not trying to weigh the bad-the good;
Just remembering.

When did I become this person?
When was the first time I tasted sin
Like a ripe fruit bursting in my mouth?
Was the influence of living in the South?
My grandmother waking me up too early
For grits at five in the morning.
Should my adolescent tirade against mosquitoes
Have been the first warning?
Was it before or after their fighting?
The birth of my brother merely highlighting
My parents' complete incompatibility.
Was it when I realized I was never unhappy
That they got divorced?
The fear of their yelling abated
By a court-approved mulligan.

When did I learn to lie?
Playing cruel jokes on my brother,
or holding him later as he cried over our mother
Not showing up again.
Which one was the real me?
Staying quiet as that boy slapped my ****,
Laid me down, lifted my legs up, and said,
"Let's play house."
When was the first time I wanted to douse
Myself with gasoline?
Purge myself and
Emerge clean...
How did I start to hate myself?
And later, when I met my father's saving grace;
What did she see when she looked in my face?
An echo of my father's distance or
the shadow of my mother's abandonment?
Or did she see a blank canvas-
That she could paint her love on?
Where did I learn humility?
When did I begin my refusal of others loving me?
How did I learn to live?
Discover the strength in me to forgive?
When I lifted someone's face to mine,
And told them the only reason they were
Surrounded by the darkest night,
Was because they were the only star shining bright.

What made me push my family away?
My youngest brother not even getting
A call on his birthday;
My sister refusing to wilt in my absence,
like a wild rose-growing without a sister.
When did I realize I missed her?
How did I learn how to stand and be a woman,
With firm convictions that I can believe in?
And if I went back to that moment-now-
Back as far as my life would allow.
Back to that hospital-
Looked my parents in the face
And told them how I turned out,
Would they cry, scream out loud?
Or would they be proud?
All I can remember...
Was trying not to cry
My face was hot, and my eyes felt like grapes
about to burst from my head.
Hands gripped my throat, and still,
my body, unconvinced,
was shaking for air.

I don't remember scratching as much as I remember
Trying to move my legs.
All I know is that suddenly the wall was slamming into my back,
and my eyes could only focus on
the thin red lines on his bare arms.
I was pinned to the wall by my throat,
like a butterfly...
trying to fly away...
trying to get away...
Look, how pretty.
I thought if only God would show up,
I would never catch a butterfly again,

I remember thinking,
"Please. Please. Please. Please."
More like a mantra than a prayer.
As if I was willing him to be finished with me,
my shell;
willing him to be pleased enough to just let me sleep.
Or die.
Or live.
But I couldn't really think of anything
without the oxygen pumping my ideas through me.

I didn't even realize when I stopped struggling,
I was just suddenly still and he said,
"Can't have you passing out."
And he let go.
And God let go.
And I let go.
And I started to cry
as he threw me over his shoulder.

I could see so many beautiful spots in my eyes.
There was Red. There was Blue.
Some of them were dancing.
Fading in and out.
It was like they were twinkling.
My own beautiful endless night sky.
Van Gogh, where are you?

Then I suddenly became aware of myself;
My shorts gone, my skin bare to the coldness.
I was lying with my hands pinned between my back and the floor.
I started taking stock of myself
And tasted blood on my lips.
I suddenly thought of pennies;
lots of pennies floating in front of my eyes.
No wonder they were twinkling.

I heard more than felt
him laboring above me.
He was silent and wouldn't look at my face.
And I was aware of my eyes burning
as salt water seeped out on
a quest for the ocean.
I was going with them.
My tears.
I would be a sea captain.
Far from this.
Call me Ishmael.

But it was the most quiet I've ever cried
as if I didn't want the weeping to disturb him.

"God, please. please. please."

And I was taken back to another form
hovering above my young body,
whispering things into my ear about playing house,
and staying quiet;
"Shhh. Mommies have to be quiet."
I wanted to go back to playing with my dollhouse.
Please, let me go play with my dollhouse.

I am breathing on my own again.
I am back in the room, staring up in horror,
at a boy I thought I knew.
I was trained for this,
I was taught to be silent
from childhood.
I was shown how to react to this
so long ago;
in silence.

But I was not born for this.
I couldn't have been born for this.
I was born to give life, I was born to create,
I was born to bring hope.
I am a divine creation,
Aren't I?
I feel like I'm floating.

He is finished with me.
He lets me go.
But for some reason I don't know how to sit up anymore.
He walks out to have a cigarette.
My throat is sore,
My eyes are burning,
and I feel bruised under my skin,
all the way to the middle.
To a soft part in the center
that I suddenly see
as a tender nimbus,
floating over my chest.
Forcing me to rise
and walk again.
Up, up, and away.
© Ashley Quarterman 2010

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She struts into the room.
A sensual movement of the hips...
Tight clothes, firm but rounded muscles
half-parted lips.
The confidence is like a perfume.
Her fragrance subtle, but backed with the power in her eyes.
She sits.
Strips out of her coat.
Corset with strings,
a tattoo of wings,
sweet little sparrow...
Are you an angel?

Smooth shoulders
as she exposes her neck
while the rest of the room
stares on perplexed
like stopping to see a wreck;
As she strokes her hair,
we silently stroke her ego.
She knows she is something to see
And when we finally remember to breathe
I'm left gasping for air
with a tightness between my legs
I hadn't realized was there.

And she smiles like she knows.
She does but
Then she turns away
Continues on her way
and I'm raking my nails
through my sheets
for days.
Today is one of those days.
Poems spill out of me,
The pictures I am taking with my mind
Speak volumes of hope, life, truth, and purpose.
I am painting philosophies
On the blood red walls of my heart.
I want to dance until my sweat feels
Like rain on my skin.

Today is a day obviously meant for celebration.
Happiness is a friend reaching around a corner;
"Why were you hiding?"
Today is a day to stop hiding.
Today is a day for hide and seek.
The grass begs for my bare feet.
My arms wait for embraces given,
Not taken.
I am animal.
I am human.
I am alive.
I deserve this anguish on my house.
It was late.
He was stalking the ruffling.
Her skin was pale,
her dress was red, and she was shuffling.
The cobblestones rose and fell
like waves.
His eyes as deep as oceans,
his eyes as dark as caves.
She ran. She ran. She cried.
He loved. He loved. He lied.
And when at last his strong hands
crushed the life from her throat,
he stood, he gazed,
and he brushed off his coat.
The satisfaction never came.
Things would never be the same.
Forever in the fray, forever apart and away...
I looked down from the balcony that night,
and, gods help me, I stayed. I stayed.
Where am I
if not stuck staring into a restless candle
that reflects my own inadequacies
yet brightens up my life
with every pulse of the unstable
and flickering light?

And as the fire rises up,
licks and caresses my face,
my body, my heart,
where do I turn?
There is never a painless walk through flame.

I have experienced this loss,
this guilt, this anguish before;
knowing it would be over soon enough.
I miserably wilt
like a vibrant blur
that is little more than a flash
in a pan of sorts.

The end may be coming,
but it burns like hell first.
Some days just don't belong to you.
They are foreign. They are alien.
Like an unannounced death sentence,
They wait.
Stalking and wrapping shadows around themselves,
Until at last they spring-
They slide into your life;
Slithering like a silent grinning serpent.
And only after they disappear
Do you realize Paradise was stolen from you.
And you are left there
Confused and naked to the
Harsh winds of change.

And you pray.
And you pray.
And you pray.

But you're still there.
Standing alone.
Damage done and no way to go back.

And when next you feel
The echoes of happiness
Slip over your skin,
It feels like a shell that
You can't see
Has been in place the whole time.
Because you can't ever feel down

Lights swirling around
and exotic colors become all
      at once
           neon bright.
Searing your eyes enough to give everything
that dim cloud whirling around it
      like an oversized trench coat.

But this is all overseen
    and somewhat out of place
by the people in
     fur coats.
And ladies who hold silken scarves
over their oddly high placed noses
as they pass my friend's cigarette smoke
     just before they enter the "hip" Latin restaurant
          to prove they're cultured.

And even though I laugh,
     and give my friend a knowing smile,
I hear them over the crowd
     incorrectly pronounce
           the phrase "dos cervezas",
and can't stop the cringe that appears on my face.

My friend walks away as if nothing is wrong,
      truth be told, there shouldn't be.
We both know how this works.
Who gets upset about a heritage they don't advertise?

We have all
        but bleached our skin
(because anything that isn't white is in)
We want out.

Because exotic
              are often admired
(as they are worn around the shoulders).

— The End —