Ashley Renselaer


I have been peeking behind the mirror
Trusting in old friends
But the flowers on the wall
Blink at me, I fight hard to keep them off
Oh, friend, what if they start to breathe, and take a walk?
What then?
Will you then blow the smoke?
Will you lift the veil?
Will you clear my head?

And everyday I drive by those crumbled bodies under the bridge
They’re deformed and detached
But with dreams of childhood
All bundled up in shopping carts and cardboard homes
They smell of sadness
And of regret
What if I’m them one day
Looking for my teddy bear
Amongst the boxes of despair

Will you, friend, come to me?
Will you lift the veil?
Will you clear my head?

And the other day I saw this girl
Who was as old as the earth
Her hair all silver and her voice
A strange sound I had never heard
She laughed a terrible giggle
Of universal awe, shock and horror

Hey, friend, if you see her one day, will you see me too?
Will you lift the veil?
Will you clear my head?

And just yesterday,
I saw a bomb shatter
A mundane afternoon
In a wholesome park
Filled with long-haired willows
And mothers’ joy
I saw it all blown to smithereens

And tomorrow, I’ll think of my lineage, I’ll wonder where the stem is, I’ll search for my roots in
empty hollows of blown-up cloud

Come, friend, lift my veil!
Clear my head!
Will you?

A Golden Shovel

After Gwendolyn Brooks’ “The Sonnet-Ballad”

The darkness of the forest trees, and the hollow, and the mist, Oh
Left me longing for my mother
Running in the cold and wind of the night wondering if my mother
Had ever existed, in my home, in my dreams, in my heart, oh where
Am I an orphan lost in the woods, where monsters lurk, where the icy haunting is
Am I a girl in search of my long-lost happiness
My mother with her long dark hair sung sweet tunes to me and warned that if they
Came, broke, burned, and took
All that was her and all that was me, all that was life and all that was hope, that I should     take my
Strengths, fears, and memories like a lover’s
Secret letters hidden in my chest, that I should not fear the dark trees’ tallness
That I should sail to the other side off
To where girls are free and bold, to
Where I can live in peace and not fear war
Where no man can make right of wrong. And no soul can be crushed. My mother left
Her brown eyes and courage with me
She fought with death, never lamenting
The unfairness of it all, but now
It is my dream, or my memory that I
Feel buried in the mud, that I feel trapped in a nightmare, that I cannot
See the light of day, or the break of dawn, that I have to guess
If I will ever find the other side, and what
If mother gave her life so that I
Could give mine to another, what if I can
Hold on a bit longer to make it through the night. No use!
I can see the burning city. I can see the rising smoke. An
Angel meaning to guard me, an empty
Shell of Mother’s dreams, her favorite heart-cup
On the wooden kitchen table, a relic from our home for
Always remembering that love is strongest. But what if he
Who came and robbed us of our happiness won’t
Stop? What if Mother’s tune of courage will be
A long forgotten melody? What if war is coming?
What if there is no turning back
There is silence here
Mother is not singing anymore.

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