Sally Ashton

I told the story poorly
 (but we discussed it well.  –Robert Bly)







I was sniffling in my seat strangled by sunlight

run over by every car that passed the failure

of breath I tried to swallow everything

streamed away a pinnacle in sunglasses.

This is autumn, the fall faltering light no

lightness swollen squash tomatoes burst open.

The hills like me I can’t explain it I despise

them. The rails offer distress, regret,

propulsion. Each to their own window the sky

so empty it is blue and hurts me.





I dreamt my mother made a sack lunch

for me I know why I wept she

was leaving me I wanted to paddle after her.

I fear the water crocodiles the sound

of my own voice when I cry, help! I can’t swim.

My voice usually echoes inside and I know it

but what travels such distances isn’t me I watch

from shore clutching the sack’s neck. I don’t

recognize the myth, but I know the story.

The water laps at my ankles, and the moon

has a face like the head of a drum.





There should be a disclaimer: this is bad

for your health but we are addicted. I kick

through the afternoon, broken summer

no reason to write what is unforgettable

what moves away moves I can’t stop

staunch anything. One tree stands

completely frozen in the heat its bark

cracked and wide September roughly

stripping the branches the leaves still

green it doesn’t matter. At times we see

what we’re not meant to there is no

knowing this season burnished ablaze.





In the aftermath there is no math

only a crude addition on each finger

one hand tapping keys. Sometimes the moon

offers comfort sometimes it is a hole

shot through eternity sometimes it is

not even there. I told the story poorly

if there had been a better way would I

have found it I can’t say. I don’t have

a head for numbers anyway sometimes

the beauty that is always and is everywhere lies

underground enduring for a better season.

I have no proof that Lisbon exists
                            Fernando Pessoa


only waking dreams, like the cry of a gull

echoing in an alley or the lingering smoke

from a cigarette. Or, an imaginary war

that never occurs in your homeland though

everybody bleeds. The idea of Lisbon

is like that, like listening to someone who says

No, then Yes, each moment changing direction,

swallows darting mid-sky. And it’s summer always

in such a place that can’t exist. You walk

on pavement stones slick with heat, the streets

a school of fish flashing through the city

in every direction. They rise under your feet.

This is the dream part, when the trolley turns the corner

shaking like loose change and the river

opens before you, behind you the hills—a fine

specter, glazed with unerring light.


Saudade, someone might say. Saudade is not

to be alone as I am alone, but to be apart.

Absence is proof of nothing, neither is its phantom pain.

It is a memory stolen from another language

you find you are unable to speak.

Sally Ashton

<em>Edit Poetry</em> Sally Ashton

Sally Ashton is Editor-in-Chief of DMQ Review.( She is the author of three poetry collections, These Metallic Days, Her Name Is Juanita, and most recently Some Odd Afternoon. Honors include a fellowship from Arts Council Silicon Valley, a residency at Montalvo Arts Center, and several Pushcart nominations. She has taught in the Disquiet: International Literature Program in Lisbon, Portugal, and teaches at San Jose State University.