Happiness is Poetry: Ashe Vernon
I was sitting in a friends house a couple of months ago and noticed a book of poetry. Knowing we have similar tastes I picked it up and scanned through a few poems. I will admit, not everything I read moved me, but when it happened, whoa, it happened hard. For me, Ashe Vernon, in the baseball sense, is a home run hitter. Like all home rum hitters, she doesn’t hit one out of the park every time she swings, but when she does, you need to get out the tape measures because it’s a monster and there’s nothing more beautiful than a monster home run. You can find Ashe’s books on Amazon and see more of her work at Latenightcornerstore.com.
So tonight, for our weekly poetry post, a few of Ashe Vernon’s home runs. Enjoy, and have a happy day my friends ~ Rev Kane
don’t you dare, for one minute,
believe that my kindness makes me
anything but insurmountable.
i did not unzip my chest to every kind of hurt,
and stagger back, wounded and alive,
just to hear you call me weak for trying.
i opened my door to heartache—
i gave her the fucking key.
my softness for wayward strangers
has made me nothing less
than a halfway house for aching soles.
so when you open your mouth
and call me ‘baby’
understand that i am not your next victim
in a laundry list of broken girls.
you think i don’t know you? people like you?
people with mouths for hands.
i’ve got skin like topsoil
and your teeth could never take root.
so when you go looking to make a plaything
of a sunburst,
you better look for someone with less fire
because softness or no,
i will eat you alive
before i let you make a meal of me.
You were melt-in-my-mouth—
Tuesdays under the sky.
I picked your words like
fruit from the vine;
we were decadent.
Stretched out in the sunshine-touch
of each other’s lips,
your skin hot like a Texas summer,
I could have spent forever
tucked against the apple orchard of your chest.
My sundress hiked up around my thighs.
The two of us, laughing, with
“Someday” on our tongues—dripping down our chins,
all gold and vibrant.
We were ripe for eating.
We were sticky-sweet.
We were less Forever than we thought.
And when the cold set in,
I was still eating apples
even after you’d dug up your roots and gone.
(You said I held my hands too still.)
I wasn’t doing nothing.
I was putting down seeds
and waiting for Spring.
The next in a series of poems that are not about you
It’s so easy for love to hurt me.
Hate has never cut half as deep,
or ached for half as long.
Hate barely hurts at all.
God, it blisters. It bruises.
I can’t stop picking the same
The Summer I Turned 20
The summer I turned twenty, I cut off all my hair,
got wicked drunk and took shots at the stars,
kissed a girl for the first time.
I didn’t fall in love, but I tried to.
It was the summer where three people died—
where tragedy was never more than
two weeks away from itself.
First, it was Allison’s brother.
Then, Mary’s fiancée.
Then, my father.
One. Two. Three.
The men in our lives, gone in a heartbeat—
too much death under one roof,
too much emptiness for the Texas sun
to lay claim to.
We dug up parts of ourselves we
could never put back in the ground,
We learned that sometimes
people wear grief too differently
to hold one another:
that no one knows what to say because
condolences don’t pry nails out of coffins,
that tombstones are not grave-markers for the dead,
but stone slabs the living carry on their shoulders.
We learned that the aftermath of death is
unique as a fingerprint.
Allison’s was brave.
Mary’s was quiet.
mine was furious—
I wasn’t done with him, yet.
There were too many battles left unfinished—
this was not how I wanted
to win the war.
Grief looks ugly in the mouth of a girl
still relearning how to love her father.
It is a useless extra limb on the body of someone
with ten years of bad blood to make up for.
When you know your father as little more
than sickness in a skin-suit, there
is nowhere for the rage to go when you’ve lost him.
I didn’t speak at the funeral because
I couldn’t trust myself to be kind and
much as I wanted to be angry at my father,
his memory didn’t deserve that.
My mother didn’t deserve that.
See, there is this impossible love that children carry
even for the parents that hurt them,
and I remember what he was like
before the pain and the medication
got the best of him.
And I just wanted to be good enough
for that man.
To everyone who knew me when my father was alive—
to my mother, especially.
I am sorry for the rage I hung my shoulders with.
I am sorry for becoming
all the worst parts of him.
I’m sorry that I went looking for a place
to bury all that heartache and that
I became graveyard, instead.
But the one who taught me
the one who taught me
chaos and thunder and boom
And I learned it well.
I didn’t have Dad’s excuse: how
the medication wore my father’s face
for him: shook my home down to its foundations
then left when there was nothing left
to lay waste to.
I just kicked and screamed and rattled
hoping that someone would hear me.
I am quiet, now.
is quiet now.
I miss the way his voice
could fill the house.”
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