Ruth

I spoke your name today
in a room where silence created its own echo.
I spoke of your worth today—

How you were the light reflected off ocean sand,
          the scent of jasmine before sunrise.
How you gave me flowers in the form of poetry,
          a bouquet that bloomed both brave and gentle.

I spoke your name to a flat, uncaring man
a dead-eyed satellite
indifferent to your orbit.

You mean so much more to me than this,
a stuttering exhale of memory
to someone whose hands are always clenched
whose ears only listen when he is talking about himself.

I am sorry
I am sorry

Next time
I will not speak of you through memory

 

SUITE 1700: BLOODY DOVES & POMEGRANATE JUICE

“Listen,” I say, “can you put on a magic show down there?
Maybe make a dove fly out of my womb? Something beautiful,
something to take away the pus and grit and grease of my body?”

He smiles, this doctor, a practiced face behind prudent, quiet eyes.
He is old, weathered, like an ancient church
the devoted still crawl inside to give their prayers.

He must have been examining vaginas during the height of Rome
when women opened their legs routinely for more than inspection.
or more than safety.

His hands are rough, lacking empathy.
I think of a hungry peasant rummaging through a potato sack
but I do not complain. It is rare for men to act as anything else.

This is a woman’s body at its most alive
when it becomes a battlefield
and we learn about open wounds, internal machinery,

how to bury our dead,
nurturing those parts that still remain,
watching them like newborns, like time.

What sun-ripened dove can say,
“Look at these, my bloody wings. Look at this, my indignant beak.”
This is how we learn to survive, cell by cell.

When blood turns to water,
when our bodies flush their unwanted out
like sediment churning in a riverbed.

The skin is an orphan,
discovering new parents every day.

 

SAFFRON

A call at 3am
and your voice hot inside the wires.

“I am bleeding,” you told me.
Red words like a stain on the wall.

“clenched fist—”
“shouldn’t have yelled-”
“he’s usually not so—”

I gathered you into my home, into blankets,
into the soft anchor of my hands to heal.

You told me
you ached in places the body should never howl.

You cried over the kettle for weeks.
The water in our tea was boiled twice
just to drain the salt.

Forty-seven days later
you left with a man who spoke vowels like soft butter
and promised me your happiness.

If silence is a measure of happiness,
I am glad I’ve never heard your echo
when I climb over the stars just to shout your name.


ASHLEY LOPER is a fan of dark fruits, dark chocolate, and dark, rainy days and started birthing poetry like gentle rabbits out of her body at a young age. Her poems draw inspiration from the natural world, the human condition, and all the equal measures of brutality and softness that exist in between. What she lacks in logic, she often makes up for in parable. You can find her literary best friends at goodreads.com/feralocity.