Poems by Ashe Vernon

A Lesson in Sugar Glass

In the dream, I build myself a body and I do not give it away.
I build myself a body and it’s not brutal or a testament to survival,
it is just a body.
(Maybe a little more ghost than girl or only girl
around the edges or not girl at all, but—)
In the dream, I spend years on my back, floating downstream
with the sun in my mouth, and everything is so warm.

On a back porch somewhere in New Mexico, my body sheds all its ghost
just to press against the stucco and learn the wildheart stampede
of feeling alive (and I am alive).

I am no one’s churchyard burial ground.

I am the pink and the lace that could not be pulled from this
hammer and nail existence. I am all the things I thought I wasn’t,
which is to say, I am nothing in particular, which is to say
I am exactly what I was always meant to be.

In this body, all my honey has a place.
My heart turns delicate as a halo of sugar glass,
but no one ever drops it.

In the dream, my arms stretch as wide as the world, but no one
expects me to carry it. Time slide-rulers backwards and forwards
and I watch my first kiss become my last kiss become all the
kisses in between: all the bodies I brushed up against and all the
strangers I fell so madly in love with—every one of them
lit up from the inside. Just like me. I build myself a body.

A body who wears the name boy,
but does not die by it and there is a future: the kind with sunrise
after sunrise, after sunrise, after sunrise and this body
is nothing but a display case that ferries my heart from one country
to another and weeps for the privilege of being alive enough to feel unhappy.

When I rolling pin the death from my body, so goes with it every ache.
Suddenly, I am again a temple but not in the way they all said I would be.
I am a temple, because those who kneel before me are here to worship.
Here, I am the only kind of holy,
and there is no room
for nonbelievers.

I Gave You Flood

For an entire month, the Texas sky was nothing but
a broken water main—and the state that had spent
decades slow-roasting over a pit of Christian gospel
and light-skinned southern values was suddenly
neck-deep in its own baptism.

Turns out that when you have been this starving for rain,
when you have been dry for this long,
the end of the drought only looks like a miracle
on day one.
By day thirty, our cities are drowning.

I know, now, how easily
skin can turn swampland—
that desert soil is the first to oversaturate,
that it only takes two weeks of proper attention
for my body to spill over.

It wasn’t long after I met you that I became
all flash flood and rising water tables.
Understand what torrential rain does
to a heart in a fifteen-year drought—
just look what mother nature did to Texas.

I met you and suddenly there were no more dry spells.
My valleys sloshed with rainwater;
there was nowhere to put all that sky.
It was all the ocean could do to keep up with us.
It was all I could do to keep my head above water.

There’s a reason you don’t give a starving man
a feast—his body has forgotten
how to be full.
He will make himself sick
with all this wanting.

When all that Texas drought met you
I flooded my rivers, abandoned my cities,
soaked rot into the walls of my apartment.
For forty days and forty nights
Texas and I became new seas.

Ashe is a playwright and poet based in Austin, Texas. A 23-year-old professional daydreamer, they’ve published four collections of poetry—one of which was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize. Ashe is currently the Senior Editor of Poetry with Persephone’s Daughters. At 5’2”, Ashe is a very small person with very tiny hands and a whole lot to say about it.