It was you or your house that dead-ended the road
and fitted my living in until I could nothing
but survive amidst the furniture, the clothes
the drawers closed in that blocked my body
from the vicious in you, from burning me
into an ember that collapses ashen – looks
as I did once but only briefly before the wind
scattered me as if an urn had been opened,
and I could never be gathered again
into anyone’s hands but yours, those
violences. Every window was a picture
of a window fixed to the inward motion
of walls. I ungrew as the space lessened
until I was as small and tight as an infant
in the womb of a mother who wished to expel
her, and skinless, out of the safe house of her body.
But nothing that despises your life as she did,
as you did, is what it is to be harbored, housed
against the too much of the wide-mouthed sky
and the teeth in it, smile-shaped but sharpened.
You can forget that once you were free
or loved, that once you did not fear a death
in the corners of your own rooms. You turned
predator daily, though never did a gentle word
escape the choke of your thinly hissing throat.
Every child inside you left early
as blood down your leg –
each limp as a play doll with a nodding
jelly head, knowing to do what I did not do.
Run or die trying. I buried them shallowly
in the back of the back yard. All night
as you slept, we would whisper together that
someone, any other one, must outlive you.
Ashley Crout was born in Charleston, SC, and graduated from Bard College and the MFA program at Hunter College. She is the recipient of a poetry grant from The Astraea Foundation and has received awards from The Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Foundation. Her work has been published in Sojourner, Ponder Review, Atticus Review and Dodging the Rain, among others. She lives in Greenville, SC, with her hound, Stella.