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By Ashlee

When in a rage for being criticized about your poetry just write a poem about it.

“Written Advice”

He tells me my writing is ideal

But it’s too sweet

Making him sick like after eating

His mother’s rhubarb crisp

That we can smell now

Warming the house

Tart and deep red

While my mouth waters

And the buttery aroma

Makes my teeth tingle

 

He tells me I need to be specific

With concrete examples

Rock solid stairs

Like the steps and sidewalk

In front of the house

That he can walk on and trust

That it will hold his weight

Even when there’s a corner crumbling

Or a crack and only there

Can a sweet flower blossom

 

Companion Song: The Elected’s “I’ll Be Your Man”

You’ve got to learn to lie to make everyone happy
and you’re going to have to cry to make it on your own

but I can’t see you now, put down your hands
no, I can’t feel you now, give me your hands
cause I’ve been waiting as long as I can stand
so if you ever need someone, I’ll be your man
yeah, I’ll be your man
yeah, I’ll be your man

you don’t have to go and die
to show people you’re hurting
and you’re going to have to try
put out the fire if you’re burning

but I can’t see you now, put down your hands
no, I can’t feel you now, give me your hands
cause we’ve been waiting as long as we can stand
and should you ever need anyone, I’ll be your man
yeah, I’ll be your man
yeah, I’ll be your man

now, I read through your poetry
yeah, every last one
felt like I ate too much butter
and drank too much rum
cause it made me feel sweet inside
warm, proud, and young
I’ve been sick inside
and angry at everyone

and I wish I could touch you
if I wasn’t miles away
we could talk it all out
in your clean white place

now I’ve done all the waiting I think I can stand
and I want you to know
yeah, I want you to know
I want you to know
I think you’ve found your man
yeah, I’ll be your man
yeah, you’ve found your man
come home to him

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By Ashlee

I wrote this poem after falling for an engaged man (I was unaware of his relational status at the time).

“ The Awards Show” 

Dark cocoa eyes shadowed by a strong brow

Perfect, smart, suited

Falling for you and finding out you are

Betrothed

Well, the award for

“The Fastest and Most Swift”

goes to you in the category of

“Stealing and then Breaking My Heart.”

 

Dismal gray eyes and near white hair

Rugged, soft, barefoot

Wanting you until finding out you are

Dull

Well, the award for

“Suave and Smooth on the Surface”

goes to you in the category of

“First Impressions of Future Lovers.”

 

Daring blue eyes dance and catch light

Rare, beautiful, natural

Loving you until I find you are

Lifeless

Well, the award for

“The Most Epic Love Story”

goes to you in the category of

“Love That Will Go Down in History as Legendary.”

 

 Companion Poem: “The Betrothal” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Oh, come, my lad, or go, my lad,

And love me if you like.

I shall not hear the door shut

Nor the knocker strike.

 

Oh, bring me gifts or beg me gifts,

And wed me if you will.

I’d make a man a good wife,

Sensible and still.

 

And why should I be cold, my lad,

And why should you repine,

Because I love a dark head

That never will be mine?

 

I might as well be easing you

As lie alone in bed

And waste the night in wanting

A cruel dark head.

 

You might as well be calling yours

What never will be his,

And one of us be happy.

There’s few enough as is

By Ashlee

This poem was inspired by the scariest thoughts each night in an unknown place can cause.

“The Break-In”

Don’t lie to me

Through the teeth

Of your thievery

In each decaying tooth

I can see cracks

Hoping there lives the truth

Like blood on your hands

And dirt in your soul

Sharpening a tool

Meant for me to know

Wild neon eyes

Cutting up the darkness

Like the blinking stoplights

If you’re going to end me

Do it tonight

Companion Poem:

“Breaking and Entering” by Ralph Angel

Many setups. At least as many falls.
Winter is paralyzing the country, but not here.
Here, the boys are impersonating songs of indigenous
wildlife. Mockingbird on the roof of the Gun Shop,
scrub jay behind the Clear Lake Saloon.
And when she darts into a drugstore for a chocolate-covered
almond bar, sparrow hawks get the picture
and drive off in her car.
Easy as 8th & Spring Street,
a five-course meal the size of a dime.
Easy as vistas admired only from great distance,
explain away the mystery
and another thatched village is cluster-bombed.
Everyone gets what he wants nowadays.
Anything you can think of is probably true.
And so, nothing. Heaven on earth. The ruse
of answers. A couple-three-times around the block
and ignorance is no longer a good excuse.
There were none. Only moods
arranged like magazines and bones, a Coke bottle
full of roses, the dark, rickety tables about the room.
And whenever it happens, well, it’s whatever it takes,
a personality that is not who you are
but a system of habitual reactions to another
light turning green, the free flow of
traffic at the center of the universe where shops
are always open and it’s a complete
surprise each time you’re told that minding your own business
has betrayed your best friend. But that’s over,
that’s history, the kind of story that tends to have an ending,
the code inside your haunted head.
Easy as guilt. As waking and sleeping, sitting down
to stand up, sitting down to go out walking,
closing our eyes to see in the nocturnal
light of day. “Treblinka
was a primitive but proficient
production line of death,” says a former SS Untersharfurer
to the black sharecropper-grandchild of slavery
who may never get over
the banality of where we look.
Only two people
survived the Warsaw uprising, and the one
whose eyes are paths inward, down into the soft grass,
into his skeleton,
who chain-smokes and drinks, is camera shy,
wears short-sleeved shirts, manages to mumble,
“If you could lick my heart, it would poison you.”

By Ashlee

A few weekends ago I drove with some friends from the Twin Cities to Chicago and saw a whole lot of humble farm land in between.

“Farming States”

Green pastures

Are what we are after

No more skeletal tractors

And burnt fields

Inside our nostrils will never heal

No more littered ditches

And a wool blanket that itches

Cover your ears now

The school bell is how

We know its morning

Leaving these Wisconsin farms

With our sunburned arms

We’ve swallowed enough dirt

For our throats to forever hurt

And to send us back to they city

Companion Poem:

“The Man Born to Farming” by Wendell Berry

The Grower of Trees, the gardener, the man born to farming,
whose hands reach into the ground and sprout
to him the soil is a divine drug. He enters into death
yearly, and comes back rejoicing. He has seen the light lie down
in the dung heap, and rise again in the corn.
His thought passes along the row ends like a mole.
What miraculous seed has he swallowed
That the unending sentence of his love flows out of his mouth
Like a vine clinging in the sunlight, and like water
Descending in the dark?

By Ashlee

I wrote this poem even as I knew my heart was about to be handed back to me, unloved.

“Prepare a Room”

Prepare a room

For me and you

And break my heart inside

You’ll break my heart inside

The window coverings are your pride

The walls painted with our wasted time

 

Prepare a room

For me and you

And break my heart inside

You’ll break my heart inside

Make the bed with the heaviest sheets

Full of our regret; blankets miles deep

 

Prepare a room

For me and you

And break my heart inside

You’ll break my heart inside

Lay the joyful pictures facedown

They were dusty liars anyhow

 

Prepare a room

For me and you

And break my heart inside

You’ll break my heart inside

The wardrobe full of promises untied

The dresser drawers have knobs of lies

 

 

Prepare a room

For me and you

And break my heart inside

You’ll break my heart inside

I’ll come and meet you there

And leave with dust-sprinkled hair

                And a heart that’s bite-sized.

 

Companion Poem:

“The Inventory of Goodbye” by Anne Sexton

I have a pack of letters,
I have a pack of memories.
I could cut out the eyes of both.
I could wear them like a patchwork apron.
I could stick them in the washer, the drier,
and maybe some of the pain would float off like dirt?
Perhaps down the disposal I could grind up the loss.
Besides — what a bargain — no expensive phone calls.
No lengthy trips on planes in the fog.
No manicky laughter or blessing from an odd-lot priest.
That priest is probably still floating on a fog pillow.
Blessing us. Blessing us.

Am I to bless the lost you,
sitting here with my clumsy soul?
Propaganda time is over.
I sit here on the spike of truth.
No one to hate except the slim fish of memory
that slides in and out of my brain.
No one to hate except the acute feel of my nightgown
brushing my body like a light that has gone out.
It recalls the kiss we invented, tongues like poems,
meeting, returning, inviting, causing a fever of need.
Laughter, maps, cassettes, touch singing its path –
all to be broken and laid away in a tight strongbox.
The monotonous dead clog me up and there is only
black done in black that oozes from the strongbox.
I must disembowel it and then set the heart, the legs,
of two who were one upon a large woodpile
and ignite, as I was once ignited, and let it whirl
into flame, reaching the sky
making it dangerous with its red