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The dark sour-mash smell of leather
hovers in the sweat-stained heat
As the truck snarls, awakened
its tires in their Sisyphean tread
find the familiar road around the lake
The rounding concentric lines of regret
I trace like an addled palmist.
When you spend so much time lost
you find comfort in the surety of banal paths.
I am an adult
But I never left the womb of this town,
wrinkled offspring of a tired mother
Who carries me in a low-slung belly
Drying and stretching in endless vessel.
She knows I tried to leave her once
Across the world
In another womb, green and fecund and full of death
and like the lukewarm believer I am,
I was spat out
crawled back to her.
She swallows me back up
Like the drowning boy in the lake
***** in water.
If only the weight in my mouth
Could float in water, like the styrofoam buoys
Could float to the top, in a dead man’s float
but it’s all too well-moored, concrete and clay.
I am silent
I am silent
Cruel mother,
You know I will never
Have the courage
To leave.
inspired by the prompt: I am an adult but I never left the womb and  "Speaking of Courage" from Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried."
He feels the ache
Mostly on Wednesdays
The limp emptiness, gaping
Like the sleeves of the forgotten jacket in the back of his closet.
The scent of his cologne is gone now
But in the morning, dressing,
He still thumbs the supple shell of the leather—
He hasn’t looked
But he is sure
He has worn a light spot into the left sleeve.
How many uptown nights
Under the harsh lights of the metro car
Did he reach for his arm
the taught muscle under the sleeve like warm stone
Feel the stitches over the pad of his thumb,
Before he placed a hand on his.

On Wednesdays,
He treats himself to takeout
From the corner store,
The creamy peanut sauce on bedraggled vegetables
Is enough to drown out the hunger
But between the bites of rice and curry
He still craves the
homemade broccoli cheddar soup and fresh bread,
Humming echoing in the kitchen in time to the rhythm of the chopping knife
A peck on the cheek
And the brush of his hands passing him the steaming bowl, warm and dry from washing.
His stomach growls.

He doesn’t smoke anymore
But he lapses
Mostly on Wednesdays
When the love-sick moon is visible
Between the high rises
A night like the one he left
Biting winter, the way icy concrete pierces bare feet
He sits in the open window sill,
Smoke flows into the dark like memory
the smell of nicotine
stirring relief and regret
It all feels
the same.
TW: Suicide
*if you or someone you know is considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Hotline:
800-273-8255



My father walked in
Thinking his son was still in love with his life
But the letter
the letter
the letter
The pills
the pills
the pills
Scattered
Like the candy left from the Christmas parade
Da, how do I tell you
It was never because I didn’t love you
I do,
I do,
I do.
How do I tell you
Home is an echo, a smoke filled hazelwood  
Where I cannot put out the flames.
How do I tell you
The day we went Christmas shopping in the city
I cried in front of the window display
Because the cotton snow looked so cold
And it reminded me
Of when I was 6, and you set me on your shoulders
And we went out into the copse
To cut juniper boughs for the table
And came in smelling of wet snow and sweat and the soft, sweet pepper of juniper berries, hands sticky with sap
And Mum smiled,
And I cried because I knew
That was the last time I could remember I was happy
And even it was fading fast,
Flames curled around the charred edges of Mum’s lips,
Her teeth smoldered
And then she was gone into the swelling black smoke,
Curling burnt ribbons are all I have left.

How do I tell you
My fingers have razed the grey matter, amygdala,
thalamus,
cerebellum
Until they hung in charred threads
I dug a labyrinth of fire breaks in my brain
And still the Minotaurian roar of flames
Is eternal.
At night I cannot sleep, they are
So loud
So loud
So loud.
If you ever wondered
Why I am still awake at 3am
Watching late night TV in all its ****-filled glory
It is the closest I can come to numb,
And the fake family’s chatter
Is so easy
They say nothing, talk of nothing
And that is what I need
More than anything
To be nothing.

How do I tell you
It is not your fault
It is just that I am so tired,
So tired
So tired.
And the flames have burned my hands to stubs
my lungs are charred branches
That cannot expand without an exhale of ash
And I am so tired.
I have tried to climb out from under the weight
And I am dragged back in
Every time.

Da, how do I tell you
it is alright,
I have put it out
I  have put it out
It is out.
Forgive
Me.
Nov 18 · 101
Dante's Local
TW: Rpe, Sucide
.
.
.
.

Dionysus wipes his hands
With a wine dark-cloth,
His bar the confessional booth, for gods and mortals.
The absinthe green of his eyes loosens tongues
until their sins fall from their mouths like snakes and stones,
clattering onto the tarnished marble bar.
The stinking incense of each dog-eared dollar,
sustains him in its foul smoke,
the muttered prayers over empty glasses
chants and cries and pains and joys
Falling over each other like drunken feet,
Weaving themselves into stories
He recounts to Ariadne in the morning
As she folds laundry, and he does the dishes.
The threads of small mortal lives hanging around them untethered.
His patrons check their best at the door, he knows this,
Welcomes it,
He still has the best wine in the city
Even if they ***** it into the storm drain outside.

Asclepius stops in after his 12 hour shift
Eyes haggard
The blood of an attempted suicide on his scrubs,
the pull of a thousand witnessed deaths curled around his hip flexors,
Trying to drag him down with every step.
Still, he moves like a snake through sand,
The soundless strength of his movements
Ripple a wake of quietness, hallowed calm
On the floor they call him gentle giant
Always ask him to work full moons.
Artemis never did like him,
But the mortals are stilled
Under his hands.
Cracked and dry from over-washing
His knuckles bleed when he reaches for his glass.
At home Epione will take them in hers,
Rub lotion into the palms with the pad of her thumb, working her way in concentric circles all the way out, tenderest on the backs of his hands and their maze of scales and interstices,
The strong cherry-tang scent of almonds rising from their fingers.
At work sometimes he will feel the ghost of her touch
Crave it, as the sanitizer and soap smart against his skin,
This is an old intimacy they have always shared—the meeting of fingers, the firm pull of her thumb against palm,
And sometimes the way she traces the faded green lines of the serpent tattoos that twine around his forearms,
The slow caress of her index finger, the tiny scrape of her nail
Until her hand encircles his neck, cradles the serpent’s head
And she leans in to kiss him.
He will go home to her in an hour
When he is warm from the whiskey
And his mind is a little softer,
Some of the blood washed away.
He sighs,
Men are curing men
But they always find new ways to **** others
and themselves.

Athena’s seat is in the back, near the fire escape,
Where the shattered vinyl of the seat
Scrapes her thighs like desert sand.
Steel eyes to the door,
She gulps ***** neat.
After her second deployment, it’s the only thing that stills her hands.
Her pearled teeth gnaw the end of a burned cigarette—
If she chews hard enough,
the tobacco replaces the taste of her staff sergeant’s tongue, his breath, his blood.
Bodies in the dark, the vice-gripped wrists,
She bit, she clawed, she kicked,  
the muscles weakened by so few prayers
the dim fire in her eyes could not muster a single flash,
a flintlock in rain,
and she was another nymph, another Cassandra—
No one believed,
no one believed.
She can still feel Cassandra’s arms locked around her calves,
hear Ajax’s guttural grunts,
she understands now.
But for her there was no temple, no statue,
She tries to cling to herself,
But falls away to dust,
The guttural grunts of the staff sergeant echo as
The memories drag her, screaming, across her bedroom floor
Poseidon cannot drown them,
Only ***** can
And no one believes,
No one
believes.
Goal was to write a modern interpretation of Greek gods and goddesses. Title drawn from Niel Anderson's album/song.
Nov 11 · 25
Rondure
The moon is too high for earthly alto
Below her silver parenthesis  
The pause of a half-note North Star
North and north,
What direction is up?
There is so much beyond our crude compass crosses
We are fond of our straight lines
When the world is round, round
Round as clasped hands, a red mouth
Overflowing with sound that runs down the chin like blood
Round as a helix cupped by fingers, by lips, by teeth,
Round as a dancers hips, circling their core as slow and sweet as the turn of Earth in gravity’s arms
Harm is angles,
The blade of a broken plough
A razor deconstructed
Lines drawn in sand by silver spurs.
When we have carved the trenches
When we have shoved the soft, stardust beings of us
Into corners, into cells,
When concrete replaces clay under our feet
And we have forgotten the feel of mud between our toes.
What have we
after this?
When we have forgotten
The rounding beat
Of our own heart.
Would you sing to me? Your voice calms me like the sound of cicadas in distant summer/I listened to the album you made me over and over, the way your voice glides into the notes, weaves itself into my bones/Your hair looks so beautiful in sunlight, soft sandstone red/ I love to see you smile, your secrets behind your teeth/Get dressed up and let me show you off, wear the dress that gives you Venus de Milo shoulders/I just can’t take my eyes off you, a rare star, unbridled constellations of your eyes/ let me draw you, capture your life in this small moment, paper and pensiveness/I just want to hold you, feel the needed press of our bodies/I need you right now, you are not my breath but I breathe easier when you are here/I’ll come over to your place tonight, I know you must be tired, I see the way the world wears us, slow drips of waxen time against our skin/I found this flower in the yard, it reminded me of you, the petals delicate in their sweetness, the strength in the roots/I love your family, their warmth a hearth fire, always returned to/Would you make some art for me? I see the way you pull beauty from the wound in your side/Read me some of your poetry, what does your soul sound like?/I wrote this poem for you, you are written on my soul/I wrote a song for you, words were not enough, here is the sound of us/would you play music with me? Let the harmonies carry outside our bodies/I carry your heart with me, I carry it with me.
Half-love burns like a half-life spent
Radium lover
is your jaw rotting
From the stress of keeping everything behind your teeth
Incisor
     Canine
          Molar
In your dreams they fall into your palms
Soft and sacrosanct, grotesque, sharp pearls to string around hope’s neck
And crush it.
Love,
what were you not telling me
And why?
Title from Kate Beaton’s Marie Curie comic
Oct 20 · 304
Poema XIX
The promethean draw of winter stars
new leaves bathed in twinkling lights
hung by the low-slung Moon
sweet, love-sick pearl
called by the Sea and unable to answer--
You roll the clouds in waves across the sky
cloaking yourself when it is too painful
for him to see
what he cannot hold.
Oct 12 · 247
Poema XVIII
Self,
Here are the ways you have been loved
Instead of the ways you have lost it.

You have known love the color of autumn dogwood  
The deep red of want
Rising in the cheeks like steam.
The magnetic pull of moon and stars
Orbits spinning until they are null
The rush of blood in the ears
Tempests in the paths of plans.

You have known love the shade of fall juniper
The argent blue of constancy
Silver dust on fingertips
Invisible until tasted.
Pepper and pine, the flavor of rain
And washes of hope.

You have known love the hue of October roses
The bittersweet fragile pink
Bright and fast and pure
delicate as a dream on waking,
fading in the opening of an eye,
Its memory more solid than its time.

Self,
You have loved and loved and loved
And you have been loved.
And on the nights this does not fill your cup
When your arms are empty
Your voice dry,
Wait, work, and wonder
Through solstice, equinox, eclipse,
For each in their season returns and returns
And all seasons come anew.
Oct 9 · 442
Ritual
I move through the woods in ritual
The trees have shed their leaves like
Third sons and eldest daughters,
They cling bravely until the wind uncurls their hands
and bears them away from home.  
A scavenger, I search them out, hold them between finger and thumb,
Their last embrace.

Sometimes I will pluck a fading life from a branch,
melded amber and crimson,
the dregs of sun in their veins,
offered in the last vibrance of summer’s heat.
At home, I press them between pages,
tiny spells of weight and gravity
cast to keep their color.
I know this magic,
Autumn and I are kindred in this,
Our eyes are the same soft green and sepia of hiraeth
cradles of remembrance,
nets always cast back into memory.
Like all memories
There are a thousand useless,
The umber of old blood, trodden underfoot,
the seconds that dripped by unmarked.
But we hold the fragile, happy few,
High upon a shelf
the glowing phosphorus of laughter
The currant red of a last kiss
Returned to and returned to
Like an unanswered prayer.
Sep 29 · 245
Weird Sisters
My sisters and I jest
That men never get over us.
We have been named
Muses, angels, succubi, leanan sidhe
But we are les belles dames avec merci
And that is their undoing.
Our breath has left them gasping
With unfilled lungs
We never meant to be their oxygen
But they drink us in like drowning men.

We didn’t ask for this,
But disarming, we are soft enough
For them to float in
Belly up, eyes to distant stars
Singing the sirens song that stirs in our veins.

Behind our teeth rests the love
The world has failed to give them till now
There are holds in the knowledge
that our fingertips find the hollowed spaces,
mother wounds, clefts where trust was carved out,
And they clutch our palms to staunch the bleeding.

We never asked for this,
They cherish the brittle changelings of us
until they are crushed in the coals of our eyes
Eggshell ideals, fragile as egos.
Blown by the sea wind in the strands of our hair
they are scattered, undone.

The distance drifts between, inevitable
And full they turn away to starve
We cut the mooring line
After one too many storms,
And search
For safer
Harbor.
Sep 25 · 197
Freeway Icarus
On the overpass
a man throws his arms up
In crucifixion grace  
His expression is wandering between
Elation and desecration
Face ****** to the late afternoon sun
Belly pressed to the rail like the bow of a ship

My stomach curdling
I pass beneath him
Panicked, I check the rear view for swerving cars and relieved,
find none.
At home the 911 call list shows nothing
On that stretch of road.

I hope he was only greeting the autumn
An icarus whose wings
Never melted.
Sep 24 · 261
Nine
Saying that I didn't love you
sounds more like a truth
than the lie I want it to be.

And I do not know if this is because
my love starved to death, slowly,
or because I am malleable maleficence
and when arms are offered
I bend myself into them
automaton clay
deadly mimic
powerful enough to fool itself.

When I ask my heart
there is only static
the inoffensive murmur
I have trained myself to utter
Its voice lost
somewhere beneath a barrow of expectations
unmet.
Sep 22 · 155
Serendipity
Born to the veil
peeled out like a peach with the old iron knife
rose quartz, slow flesh, thin newness in January air.
His grandmother kept the caul for luck
pressed between the pages of her bible
and the old ways.

His silvern eyes mirrored the tarnished coin his mother slipped in to his fist
at christening.
Droplets of hope, heavy on small lids
and when he lifted them
he saw his first ghost
over the priest’s shoulder,
her gauzy lips grazing his cheek.

His luck was the vaporous three-legged dog that followed him everywhere.
Its dusky warmth on his feet,
the comfort he could not sleep without
for there were too many nights
his dreams had the flavor of ash and mire
and he would wake, panting,
the heat of his fear snatched by the cold nights.

In the village
the girls asked him who they would marry
until he told the raven-haired her sailor floated somewhere in the Atlantic,
the ring he bought her in Portugal
resting on a finger of coral.

The white heather his mother tucked in to his cap
stayed green, even past the dream of her prostrate in the market square—
He warned her against buying apples In autumn,
but in September, he felt the tell-tale jolt of loss,
keen as raven’s wing through cloud
dropped the plough, sprinting through the fields of winter wheat.
His gasps matching hers
the viscous pump of blood through ventricles
one stream running dry.

At the apple stall
the copper eyes of the butcher’s wife
burned holes in his heart
as he watched his mother’s soul
drift from her breast into the ether.
It slipped by his hands, goose down through fingers,
formless, aimless love that would spin itself into grief
the cloak woven from its threads
one he would wear
for the rest of his days.
In Western folklore, children born with cauls (amniotic sac still on) are considered lucky, and sometimes the ability to see ghosts and predict the future.
Sep 18 · 319
Proximal
The proximal end of my soul is no longer safe
Decay has dilapidated the space
The raveled fragments fester
Leaves wilting with vinegar burns
Where I have tried to **** the infestation
And found I was only killing myself.

I can remember when my mind was softer, but not safer,
Hiding in the hallway to the den
Watching the scene of the desperate father
pulling his dead son from burned rubble
My child mind imagining
Blooms of orange around my bedposts,
tendrils of cinder and smoke,
Placing my hand against the back of the door
To feel the phantom heat.

And now I hold the matches to my own bed
The quiet comforter can only stifle them for a moment
There is not enough weight to press
These dreams out of myself
Maybe I still crave heat because it is the pain that is also comfort
It is the fear and the foment, the ailment and the aid
It is my body asking for enough feeling
To know it is alive and safe
While my mind is screaming fire
in a crowded
theatre.
Sep 15 · 249
Emergency Contact
I miss the solace of your blue and citrine eyes
the anxious twist of the zephyrs in my core
Stilled near you,
Standing in cool shadows beneath an oak—
The heart tree your parents
Planted when you were born
still mewling as white coats pricked your tiny feet
The hunger they induced that never quite left you.
Still, under your branches
I was safe.

I remember the night
Lachesis plucked a few more inches
From her spool
And you wrapped them around your finger
Driven by ****** of dread
Drew me into your arms, clinging to the spaces between my hips and ribs
Whispering into the curve of my neck  
that if you released me into starlight  
Erebus would ****** me away from you.  
And I had not doubted that you loved me
But feeling your caged panic
I learned the wings of your heart were strong enough to bend mine.

In the dark I am more skittish now
Untangling our threads
I unraveled the Moirai’s veil.
Alone,
I am under the crimson eye of too many men
Now that I am not
The apple of yours.
The Graeae glance down from their mountain
Holding their eye above an abyss
Words I always wanted said are
poisoned by unwanted lips.
The restless zephyr in my stomach stirs
Searching the nearest escape route.
And the softer tint of the world
has turned hard again.

But you are still the nearest sanctuary
And maybe it is selfish
To think of you so
But I hope I am still the same
For you.
Sep 14 · 218
Last Cry
Calling all,
This is our last cry before
eternal
silence.*

In the quiet spaces between waves
the last vestiges of humanity sink,
dots, bubbles bursting in sea foam
fragile as mermaids' souls,
dashes, innumerable shafts of sun on water
Cascading to the sea floor.
Cast the net of time wider
The final chorus of lost comrades
fervent tapping of fingertips
Lingering in the swells.
. . . - - - . . .  
     . . .
        - - -
             . . .
The italicized verse is the French Navy’s last message transmitted before discontinuing Morse code in French waters. The Morse code at the end of the poem is SOS.
Sep 7 · 245
How to Run Alone
First,
dress yourself in all black
no bright colors
that draw wandering eyes.
Wear the only baseball cap you own
position your pony tail
so the brim shields most of your face
but you still have enough peripheral vision
to look over your shoulder.
Move the ring you have worn on your right hand
since you were 16,
to the left ring finger.
You cannot tell the difference
between those who will leave
when there is a shadow of another man
and those who will see it as a challenge.

Second,
arm yourself.
Tie your small pocket knife into the waistband of your shorts,
last resort first.
Clip your keys to your bra
and tuck your mace canister
in the space between your *******
along with all the promises
of men who have loved you
and promised to protect you.


Third,
text your sister
tell her where you are going
and ask her to check on you
if you have not replied in an hour.
Keep one earbud out,
and do not get lost in the strains
of Tracy Chapman's voice, no matter how beautiful.
***** up your ears
the way you have seen a deer's twitch in twilight,
You both know what it is to be prey.

Fourth,
begin.
In your apartment complex
as you run across the green space,
there are children laughing,
and you feel safe enough.
Do not let this last.
When you reach the road
feel the power of your thighs beneath you
as you sprint across,
controlled sinew and muscle
you always wanted them to be strong enough
to kick a hole in brick.

Fifth,
slip your mace out of your bra
and into your fist
while you sprint through the wooded drive.
In your mind, practice screaming
FIRE! HELP! GET THE **** AWAY FROM ME!
until your vocal chords are in imagined shreds.

Sixth,
Pace yourself.
You know if you are too tired,
you cannot outrun someone.
Your lungs will give out before your legs do,
breathe deep, and pull your shoulders back.
You have never swung a punch
at another human
but you imagine what it would be like,
the bones of your knuckles
breaking across a zygomatic arch.

Seventh,
When you pass others
do not meet their eyes, do not smile.
Under the imagined safety of your hat brim
keep your eyes on the sidewalk and their feet,
in case they turn toward you.
Remember where the parents with children are walking
because they will be a safe haven to run to.
When there is no one in front of you,
look over your shoulder.


Eighth,
On your way back through the wooded drive
when Judges 19:25
the news reports of gang rapes on buses,
Kitty Genovese, and the voices of all the women you know
who have been harassed and *****, flash through your mind
run faster.

Ninth,
text your sister that you are safe
only when you are back in your apartment
and the door is locked,
and you are sure no one has come in
while you were out.
Kiss the salt from your skin
and thank your body
for its
strength.
Sep 7 · 83
Sons and Daughters
I was going to write a poem
asking parents
To raise their daughters not to be soft
To warn that their honey covered lips
Draw flies.
That the sweetness we have had
Shoved down our throats
Is choking us
When we want to scream for help.

But it is not your daughter’s fault.
Parents, do not raise your sons to believe
They are owed answers.
The honey on a girl’s lips
Was never theirs to taste.
Her body
Is not a trap, not a vice
It Is her space in the world, autonomous.
Only animals see traps.
She exists for no one but herself.
Sons, if she crosses your path
Leave
Her
Alone.
Ladies, this is your reminder to be rude and get the **** out of there if someone makes you uncomfortable. Got approached by a man yesterday while walking alone who made me wildly uncomfortable. My default is nice and honest and I panicked and let him talk to me instead of running tf away. Don't be like me.
Sep 6 · 270
Street Light Harmonies
Sing me your street light lullabies.
The discorded harmonies
Of light that speaks unease.
Wipe the concrete ash from your hands
Fill your pockets full of posies
Of cricket song and tree creaking in lament
Intone the notes that pass my lips
And taste them with yours.
There is an intimacy in this distance
A space filled with questions
Tangled over each other
Unanswered.
Sep 5 · 310
The Difference Between
What’s the difference between
Drowning and drinking, adrift?

Between
floating unmoored
body taught drum leather
through the current’s veins and
slipping beneath the surface’s mouth
The brush of its lips over arms
body taught drum leather
And sinking until sand meets skin.

Swallow a drop, scream a wave
Salt-blind eyes, sealess, starless,
The compass spins in circles
Lost.  

Can you tell me what I’m supposed to see
I can’t make it out
from the periphery
I never could judge the distance
Between you
And me
I just want to see you grow
Stronger than  were before
I know it’s hard to trust a hope
But your heart was always stubborn

Hold on my darling
Don’t you let go
For don’t you remember
There are flowers beneath the snow

Well the path is may be long
To find again your soul
But I know it’s still there breathing
Your inner child knows

The walls you built were safer
But every wall it must come down
There is pain with all things beautiful
Your mind will come around

Hold on my darling
Don’t you let go
For don’t you remember
There are flowers beneath the snow

I see you in these fields of green
Your smile broad and true
The light it has relit your eyes
A stronger, prouder, you

Hold on my darling
Don’t you let go
For don’t you remember
There are flowers beneath the snow
https://soundcloud.com/sarahashleyh/flowers-beneath-the-snow-original-song
Sep 4 · 299
Saudade
You are growing.
You sound  
more like the man
I think you always wanted to be.
You emerge from this crucible
brave, unfurled, determined
and I am truly  
happy for you.
Sep 1 · 354
Coffee & Tea
The smell of oolong still speaks your name. In the tea and spice shop I drift among leaves and peppercorns, petals and sugar,  I want to fade into the muted tones of flavorful hulls, curl into the scent of cinnamon and cardamom. Pulling down the iron goddess of mercy, I realize the veneer of curled baroque leaves rest on a sandbag. Shadowed abundance, a pretty lie, hollow, futile. Too much like us. The Cheshire glimmers of what we could have been. What I always wanted you to be, and what you sometimes were. A small edge, tiny supply to fill my cup, flavor fading too quickly. Replacing the jar, I realize there must have been a last day I named you mine.  The last time I called you boyfriend, partner—by our last talk, it was already finished, the last note in a fading song, off tune. I cannot recall the shape of my lips, the weight of your name, the tenor of my voice, the bend of my tongue, much less the listener. I still hear you, through the broken measures of a desperate song. You say you still love me, but perhaps I never told you, dear, I prefer coffee to tea.
Aug 30 · 105
Fin
Fin
But in the end
You were everything I needed
To find myself
Again.
Aug 24 · 339
Camera Obscura
That brief moment
Walking into the shaded apartment to find you reading in flannel
And everything in me jumps
The camera obscura of my iris snaps,
Suspending you in amber light.
The tapered elegance of your fingers across a page
A glint of Versailles blue-gold eyes
And fortified ramparts of your shoulders.
I will carry this vestige with me
In a petticoat pocket
Until we are old
And your arms do not lift me as you just did
The last strand of your hair is silver
And your cheeks sink with age like your father’s.
These small gems of youth
Of promise
To keep in a sleeve until they are needed
And the mirrors show reflections we cannot change
Aug 21 · 409
Poema XVII
Driving, late, the air is close, the wet contingent of molecules
Gathering across my cheeks, under my eyes.
A dog as white as the moon
Streaks across the road like a fallen star
Sirius descending to earthen night
caressed by a woolen fog, carded by sleepy winds.
The shattered carcass of a bird
crops up from the asphalt
I swerve, leaning against the inertia
the hare's heart spike of my own pulse.
There is a softness to the dark
these small scenes of ghostly death,
a solitude in the hem of night
That somehow feels safer
Than day’s garish glare.
This is a poem for the anger
I keep coiled around my ribs
Because I was taught that anger is an absinthian poison
That will rise like bile in the throat and must be swallowed.
And I realize you may read this
And you may be angry
But I realize with each crunch of bone
I must give myself the space
To uncoil in this way.

I am angry
That you made me a captive reservoir
for the bitter droughts you refused to drink yourself.
You were iron-stomached after years of punches,
that I understood.
Open handed, I wanted to be the exception
But holy palmer’s kiss
Was still not enough to let me cross the threshold.
You are the locked room in the house that the children are forbidden
Only small glimpses between hinges
Of your fear poisoned self
Huddled in a corner, vomiting apologies.

I am angry
for believing I could have lain beside you
every night for the rest of my life
And not starved to death from loneliness.

I am angry
for ignoring how I dimmed each time I waited for you
to want me, to miss me, to think of me,
to ask me to come into your arms,
to find me fascinating, enchanting
to tell me you needed me;
to betray anything that proved I was more than convenience,
A drink that served itself on a silver platter,
Asking to be drunk.
If you only knew how luminous I could be
when loved well.


I am angry
That I still hope you will be waiting by my door after work
because you realized how you starved me
And now you’ve set a banqueting table, a banner over me is love
But I know you will never do this.
I know you cannot do this.
I am angry
that I miss only the space you left,
That I have not yet been able to close the gap
And walk away from your memory.
Aug 15 · 188
The Unquiet Grave
My mind is an unquiet graveyard;
uninterred mistakes stare up from their open barrows
Milk eyes clearing to glass
As the anxious banshee crosses over them
keening notes drifting
linen strands of her raiment twining around their wrists
Dragging sloughed skin into the murky light
Of repeated examination.

I could be a queen of solitude
if not for this.
If Pandora's voice box were broken
hinges rent, screws loosed from their cavities, wood split
the demons might still, displaced.
Hope is not the last thing in my throat
she was the first to go
with a song unsung
an alto never strong enough to last
beyond the first few flakes of oxygen
I inhale in the morning.
The Unquiet Grave is also an English folk song.
Aug 13 · 215
And After
And after, there is only a gaping emptiness
the familiar ache
The desire to drown myself in soft things
Fill my pockets with pebbles and all the poems my muses will never read
And wade into the Lethe
To the place of the first breath after momentary pain
The liminal gasp between sighs
The first touch after a long absence
Body awakening to memory.

Welcome weary traveller, you are safe here. Dwell. Abide.
The scrounging scratching crawl you call a life withdraws.
Here,
Float in the fingers of sunlight through glass
The murmur of breath against hair
The glimpse of ripples from a water-strider’s gait.
Here,
You are small and safe
You suffer no harm nor cause it
Your existence has curled in on itself  
And blooms with the sunrise.
Here,
Your presence is a fleck on a robin’s egg
The bruise of teeth on a petal
An eyelash in sand
Lost, lingering, and longing.


The Lethe plucks the pebbles and poems into the current
Your likeness billows with ink in the wake
Adrift, I clutch at your fading hand
But rising, find I do not know this face
Left only with a flicker
Of a stranger’s arms
around my waist.
Aug 8 · 271
Petrichor
The sigh of things gone,
echoes of hope and the
small prickles of a blackberry
as I turn it on my tongue
between knives of teeth.
I reach further into the bracken,
The tangle of thorns caressing, hooking themselves into my clothes,  
These are familiar pains,
Small scrapes of memory.
Petrichor, a reminder of our last walk
The clouds, tremendous waves breaking across the sky, coming storm
The plucked magnolia blossom wilting in my hand
How bitter it tasted on our tongues
I saw the berries, then, crimson unripe jewels
Vowed a Persephone return when they had turned onyx
And came back alone while you languished
In your underworld.

I can find sweetness amid the pain,
What have you found
To sustain  yourself ?
Our epilogue is a grey sky
beneath it are the small plants I care for and bring to bloom
lavender, vervain, rosemary--especially
that anchor me to your memory.

You knew it meant remembrance
How the lathe of time reshapes, shaves
mud from my eyes
on the small abrasive moments
the little thrip-like wounds we never meant to inflict
and how they siphoned the spirit from us.

In the throes of want
I was hungry for more than arms--
there were times I could almost taste your soul
but even on the doorstep
when I caught the key from around your neck
it would never fit into the rusted lock,
despite all your honeyed words.

I have known men with varicolored souls
with wounded souls
with starving souls,
yours-- silver, mausoleum still
a ****** eating snow
to hide any sign of life.

Loving you, coaxing a stag to drink
holding water in my hands until
it seeped from my fingers into the earth, undrunk--
At my feet grew anemone and yew
living things
that do not have a soul
that want only what I can give
and never
promise
more.
Jul 9 · 70
Infinite Corridor
From the road, I see your silhouette on the stairs
your slim form outlined in the descent of day
A year gone, this sort of evening would have had you waiting
for me.

For a walk, for the "Let me put on some shorts."
The old brown shorts with the bleached edges
or the slim black ones.
The "Let me grab the keys."
For the, "Can you put my phone in your pocket?"
For your hand in mine
as we crossed our picnic spot to the sidewalk,
"I should collect some of these juniper berries to make gin."
For the way our strides coordinated, syncopation, across the road
to the path well-travelled.
So many diminutive moments
I didn't expect to miss.
But of course,
it's the small deaths I grieve the most.

I look for you everywhere.
Some days there are premonitions of a glimpse
The soft forlorn emptiness that pervades me
and the cheshire glitter of you, or who I think is you,
bringing the pain into focus.
We're half a mile away, at most.
I can't even half entertain the thought of crossing our divide,
but
I miss you.

Are you looking for me, too?
Jul 7 · 143
Honey
the amber drip of honey
crystalline memory
I eat
mouth watering
hungry for someone to undertake me
to seek between fern frond and yarrow
for my magic, spilled and spent
in the places I no longer fill
to return singing the song
I lost to wind and rain
a traveller's lips
tasting of honey
and promise
The wind's fingers reached into his collar,
pinching him with the cold
With another stroke of the paintbrush
The blue mixed with the gold

The walkers who ventured o’re the shore
Stared at the mumbling man
Whose teeth were stained with yellow
And drank to calm shaking hands

The burning lights blurred in the water
Pooling refractions and ripples
He captured the heavenly bodies
As the canvas he covered in stipples

Azure he blended with the indigo,
canary and honey and flax
The cool and the warm melded in one
candle and moon, wane and wax

Soft falls the light in the harbor
The stillness of night overcast
In the river he cleans off his brushes
And turns round for home at the last.
Mar 9 · 156
Selkie
His touch was
like sunlight on my skin
the sweeping skim of kelp across marbled coat
his webbed fingers tracking their rough edges
through the sand.
In the storm's howl he was calm
the chaos of waves in my belly slowed
an unearthly peace
of tide-pool eyes that stilled the seventh stream.  
The waves roll out and the waves roll in
and out my love rolls with them.
Seven tears shed at Spring tide
for love of a man
whose heart
is sea bound,
sealed.
Orkney Selkie Legend: http://www.orkneyjar.com/folklore/selkiefolk/ursilla.htm
Mar 8 · 324
Poema XVI
TW: eating disorder*




I am walking underwater.
The food I will not let myself eat
falls into the garbage disposal with the thud of voided misuse
a rising steam of self-hatred
as my mouth hangs open
hungry,
waiting for endorphins that never come
and self-denial still does not
meet my confessional act of contrite penance
it still feels like a sin
to eat
or not to eat
and there is no pleasure in gluttony
or in fast.
Sep 2018 · 261
Mary I
Elaenor Aisling Sep 2018
Mary Mary
quite contrary
Once the girl that never cried
You were Mary Beaton
And pretty Mary Seaton
And simple Mary Hamilton they all saw die.

Mary Mary
so you cry
To see the flames take breast and thigh
But heart takes hold for a thousand souls
Who hear their blasphemy no more.

Mary Mary
take his hands
And put them on your swollen waist
Make him love you
Make him touch you
Feel the phantom babe within.

Mary Mary
haunted face
The chapel so bereft of grace
curse Our Lady for her place
as she quickens see the kick
and your barren womb below.

Mary Mary
echoes call
the ghost of hopes that haunt the hall
Your darkened chamber lonely cast
reluctant lord to break the fast
two bodies strangers
one unchaste.

Mary Mary
sickened lie
the blood between your legs belies
the death that grows within your womb
around you languished hopes are strewn.

Mary Mary
So you die
with painful breath and blinded eye
The ****** takes your place at hand
with fecund fertile ******* she stands
to suckle the nation you could not nurse
for surely, you bore your mother's curse.
May 2018 · 156
Last Supper
Elaenor Aisling May 2018
From so far away
the fairground music fades
the carney's call echoes.
Were you sure you wanted to pay those pennies
for that stick of horehound candy?
String a song of sixpences together
And **** at them until they turn your mouth blood red
To hide your broken lips.

In the double wide that gapes into the evening
With its yawning broken windows.
The dingy feeling in your eyes
Refuses to fade with the dust
And the touch of sticky plastic stars on your bedroom ceiling
Keeps you company
In the bitter watches of the night

Jesus and John watch your father from the living room wall,
As the last flickers of a camel’s Pentecost flame
Are extinguished on your arm.  
Branded, you lie stained in sin
Your child eyes asking St. Peter
Why the gate is shut.
He breaks bread across the table
With your bones crushed to a fine flour,
Mixed with wine.
This is my body.
This is my blood.
Going for a Flannery O'Connor vibe.
Mar 2018 · 141
Ava
Elaenor Aisling Mar 2018
Ava
Your broad forehead glistening--
kissed with salt from the sweat
of the sea you've never seen.
The clay is still under your nails
from molding the beaker beside you.
Meadowsweet on your lips
you lay down to die
with the softness illness brings.
Tonderghie copper hair
falls over your knees,
body curled as a new babe's.
Carry with you our songs to the afterlife
from this cold forest
to clearest skies.
Inspired by the Achavanich beaker burial project.
Mar 2018 · 268
Poema XX
Elaenor Aisling Mar 2018
The scrape of thought--
like the scrape of skin
on the bare threads of a sheetless mattress.
Limbs, like the first lines of a journal,
******, new,
waiting for the scars and the stories that follow
as bodies move together,
so slowly as to atrophy.
Memories echo in the silence
light careening through the window,
and words we can't remember teasing our tongues.
I could have asked you so much, and so little.
These are the stories we tell our inner selves,
the half-truths we justify
and the lies we ignore.
The moments we relive until they are frayed
beyond memory,
beyond repair,
the quiet brush of hands
over a tattered blanket.
Nov 2017 · 149
Lament for Bridget Cleary
Elaenor Aisling Nov 2017
Come away O human child
to the waters and the wild
with a faerie hand in hand
for the world's more full of weeping
than you can understand.

Bridget,
Your pretty face,
was all they found in the peat
with the hoarfrost over your mouth
and your burnt skin curled in ribbons.
This, and your black stockings
he couldn't bear to remove.

Bridget,
Did you see the wildness in his eyes
that night he brought the priest
for last rites?
Did his hands shake
as he mixed the herbs with *****
and threw them in your face,
telling you to come home?

Bridget,
was he jealous of the sixpence in your apron pocket
the pieces of you he could never own
and the independent streak
that ran through your sensuous hair.
The hot iron at your throat
the only jewel he cared to hold there,
the slow smoke rising like a chain
'round your neck.

Bridget,
did you stare at the frightening faerie child,
his changeling wings beating above you
as he called you by his own name.
Did you scold him in the name of his aos si mother
to watch his strange eyes flare
as you choked on the dry bread
he'd jammed down your throat.
You were never his Bridget
you were your own.

Bridget,
You were never the last witch.
We are still hunted
across deserts and into alleys
acid and fists destroy the magic
of our bewitching eyes.
Angry, they reach for the pieces of us they can never own
and burn our hearts on hearths
across continents.
The smoke rising from so many fires,
unnoticed.
Italicized verse from W.B.Yeats “The Stolen Child”

Aos Si– Gaelic word for Irish Faries

The Story of Bridget Cleary, the “Last Witch Burned in Ireland” : https://www.irishtimes.com/news/offbeat/the-story-of-the-last-witch-burned-alive-in-ireland-1.2880691
Sep 2017 · 233
Polaris
Elaenor Aisling Sep 2017
I feel so lost without you,
my north star,
my comfort at the end of days.
There may as well be light years between us
and that destroys me.

You're golden in the light of grief
romanticized, I know,
but right now,
don't care.
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