Ashley-Elizabeth Best is from Cobourg, ON, Canada. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in CV2, Berfrois, Grist, Ambit Magazine, Glasgow Review of Books, Lumina, and The Literary Review of Canada. Recently she was shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. Her first book, Slow States of Collapse is forthcoming with ECW Press. She lives and writes in Kingston.
Us, A Couple Years On
My carrion heart is stabled
beside deposits of nostalgia.
His empty flattery mumbled
into rogue word drifts.
I’m fiery throated, breath
him in whole. I snip off the
heads of decayed flowers,
their stalks eating at the light.
My hair unhooks from my
ear as I rearrange the glandular
pattern of pebbles circling the
The earth clasps the wind
pelts my face with rinds
His arms are flexed cursive,
breaking the soil up by harrowing,
tattoos braceleting his biceps.
We’re tardy gardeners, him
tall and stiff-jointed, gangling
by. I clop over to the front
steps, finger the valvular
incompetence of my varicose
veins, feel the wiggle of my
adolescent wattle jaw, and
there he is still waiting for the
nightly worship of my pelvis.
The evening air turns pearly
sad. A fattened robin lops
a moth off the front door screen,
flubs away, wings promiscuous,
giving the evening a good larrup
with weighted wings.
. . .
I Now Know
Silence is the safest way to invite a problem,
bite the moment back.
My muscles are focused forward across
unfamiliar acres, worn out by desire.
What would I give for a second glance
at what I first ignored, how the bloodied
trees of autumn shadowed the coniferous
hulk of his body, the blind bone of trust
between us. I have no center to hold me
through time, already crossed my own axis.
How to place this leaving, the danger in distance,
like wind chanting through fields of canola.
I can’t wait around for his notes of admiration.
I’m the witch he loved before the gift of a wife.
Maybe if I were more delicate; it seemed like
the truth at the time. I hang out the car window,
the stray tune of leaves conversing away from
roadsides. We will be undone by this distance,
I’ll leave him to her, the saint who ate all his words.
Gnarled from travel, I now know, everything shared
. . .
I sight the old voices, their words
unpromising. You cannot worry
the hours; soon the earth will read
your bones, the land’s infertility
stubborn in the stones.
In the boundaries of body, we play a
wounding game, my hexed mouth
combats a fair deception.
We think there is a blood price
for everything, because it would
be enough to feel better if we could.
It’s easy to get lazy in love, impossible
to move unharmed through the fray.
Quest for me, repay my malicious heart,
bloody my blade, incite my fate.
What is the myth they will make of us
in the slumber of a century?
. . .
The Lower Gods
Muscled edge of steep scarp, centuries
of a monstrous performance. Water carving
into rock cartilage, tongue the downstream
light floating into night’s ascending darkness.
A landscape mapped in memory, my face warm
in the new hatch of light, winter working its cold
hands into the swollen joints of my legs, blowing
on the wound.
Stories sprung of this land sit timorous as a bird
in my wolf mouth, ready to be sleep spilled
into flexing ears, trundled into your offshore throat.
Conquer loss with silence, enjoy the slow
loitering through this country, reach the frayed
edge of decency, a tongue of thorns.
. . .
Algiers Point, New Orleans
Off Canal street, boarding the Algiers Ferry,
our days are on the decline and I’m trying
not to make it mean too much. Slouching
towards the horizon, each cloud flushed
with the effort of light. the crescent city
connection rising up like a fin out of the
Body burning in wakefulness, ferrying the river’s
elbow, I took another woman’s man and made
nothing of it. Water sprays up, we dance amidst
the dewy constellations.
The sky has gathered again. He has me up against
the railing, his voice a thinly whispered lie, the
approaching storm of translation. It only matters
that I had him once over the shorn waters of the
Mississippi. I’ll never stop sinking in the holy
flood of this city’s heart.
. . .
© Ashley-Elizabeth Best
© Bareknuckle Poet ~ Journal of Letters & Individual Authors 2016. Edited by Brentley Frazer, A. G. Pettet & Guests. All works published by Bareknuckle Poet ISSN 2204 – 0420 are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Published by Bareknuckle Books ABN 23 626 812 677 PO Box 5009, West End, Brisbane, Australia 4101 FOUNDED – BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA 2014