Three Poems by Renée Ashley



She is trying to get out of her body,
its strong tethers to the soil, its gravid
aspirations, trying to shed breasts and

belly, the great broad barrel of her torso
–some natural shift in accommodations,
something spacious, airy, something un-

hindered by bulk and bone. The yeasty
dead rise and toss out suggestions, but
they’re not what she had in mind. Rather,

something gauzy, something joy might
be eager to inhabit, the smallest open point
of absence ready to live easily in the world.



Harmony, symmetry, the slipping past
or through—and there between clapper

and bell, bottle and lip, the room of no
and every motion: shame with its wet

tongues, its aggravated eye. Shame
wound about your head like tarry air—

the stink and stymie and the damp soul
sweating it out between the skin and

what thrives—in no space at all—inside.




This is the day he dies.


The green DeSoto wrecked and
fallen from the bridge. He calls
from the jail, needs a ride home.


A dirt road in Kansas you don’t even know.
Motorcycle, axe, ice truck, drunk tank:
the world is not a story not a logic (you’ve
heard this before) — the dogs startle the crow
who in turn scares the hell out of the dogs.
White dog, black dog. There is light
on every other leaf. Such as rises belly
to brain.


You find two other wives.
And enter again. (You do this


You know what you know.
(The drunk has a heart too. Full

useless it is. Full of holes. Bucket
of pins.) He does not ask forgiveness.
And yes the language breaks down.
And yes. He does not ask that once
again. You marry. And now there are


He is sick, he is tired, his bones
are weak, he is an old man before
you are anything. The age you are
now when he makes you. And he
makes you. And then he dies and
he makes you.


Blow to the heart, gun to the side of the head.
What perfect math could save us? Memory
brings its sawblade. Brings its broken glass.
Subtract. (Subtract.) How easily spilled,
how enormous the shame of the spilling.


Renée Ashley is the author of six volumes of poetry: The View from the Body (Black Lawrence Press), Because I Am the Shore I Want to Be the Sea (Subito Book Prize, University of Colorado—Boulder); Basic Heart (X.J.Kennedy Poetry Prize, Texas Review Press); The Revisionist’s Dream; The Various Reasons of Light; and Salt (Brittingham Prize in Poetry, University of Wisconsin Press), as well as a novel, Someplace Like This, and two chapbooks, The Museum of Lost Wings (Hill-Stead Museum) and The Verbs of Desiring (new american press). She has received fellowships in both poetry and prose from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and a fellowship in poetry from the National Endowment of the Arts. A portion of her poem, “First Book of the Moon,” is included in a permanent installation by the artist Larry Kirkland in Penn Station, NYC. She has served as Assistant Poetry Coordinator for the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and as Poetry Editor of The Literary Review. Ashley teaches in the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing and the MA in Creative Writing and Literature for Educators programs at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

2 thoughts on “Three Poems by Renée Ashley

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s