THE LANGUAGE OF ASH
THE LANGUAGE OF ASH
Anarchy and misery whispered so softly that only she could hear
their voices, so she threw crabapples at a mail man to draw attention,
ran feral between cars, remapped streets that never gave adequate
directions or a single landmark to show her the way home. Mother
loved the shell her baby bird had long ago broken, a mourning dove
cooing for soft pieces, each scattered peep. Breath, the only thing
that was hers, truly. Oh, the relief to snatch a bored sigh, draw it back,
deny escape. A-gore-rhythms and Form-you-la’s, school’s strangle hold
methodology of mind control. Skip to my Lou. Skip class. Skip through
rush hour traffic. Still, no one understands. No one speaks the language
of Ash. Purge-atory is no fantasy. Every day, the same losses: possibility,
sensitivity, civility. Hey guards, listen to all the things she will never say.
Words, what the hell are they but manufactured strings of disappointment
that she chokes on? The entire world babbles platitudes and lawyers’ lies
and vulgar chastisements. Why speak, why waste a single breath?
They fling their crap, so she returns the favor, knowing they will not
translate her message. They use verbs like pepper spray and cavity search
and solitary confinement. She is nineteen, but the numbers don’t add up,
redo the equation. Just don’t ask questions or try to hurt yourself. Just?
Again, she feels the noose close her throat, smiles at her secret antidote,
the open doors of unconsciousness. A caress, this burn against the neck,
again and again, saved and saved and saved, as though they’d noticed
the flame’s gone, as though someone cared that she’d become soot, ash,
ashes. Ashley? Ashley to ashes to ash to dust, just dust. Just?
About this Poem
Ashley Smith was a troubled teen who would run into traffic, scream at people, cut classes.At 15 year, she was incarcerated for throwing crabapples at a mail man, this led to behavior which kept her in prison. She defied the system, threw feces at guards, refused to comply and strangled herself many times a day. Ashley was restrained in a chair for as long as 8 hours, forced to sleep on mattress-less bed frame, pepper sprayed, tazered and kept mostly in segregation. She would bang her head against the floor until she bled, told a phychologist she felt suicide was her only hope. She was moved 17 times between 8 facilities in only 9 months. On October 17, 2007, Ashley, aged 19, hung herself in her cell as guards merely watched, having been ordered to only intervene once she STOPPED breathing. Her death was filmed. There is currently an inquest into Ashley’s treatment and suicide. For more information-
May change come.
May change come, now.