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Cyndi MacMillan Avatar Cyndi MacMillan - LIFETIME Premium Member Cyndi MacMillan - Premium MemberPremium Member Send Soup Mail Go to Poets Blog Block poet from commenting on your poetry

Below is the poem entitled THE LANGUAGE OF ASH ley Smith which was written by poet Cyndi MacMillan. Please feel free to comment on this poem. However, please remember, PoetrySoup is a place of encouragement and growth.

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Anarchy and misery whispered 
so softly only she could hear them.
Throwing crab apples drew attention 
like running feral between cars,
like remapping streets which 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. Oh, the relief to snatch back
a bored sigh, lock it in, 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(ley).
Purge-atory is no fantasy. 

Every day, the same losses: 
possibility, sensitivity, civility. Hey guards, 
listen to all the things she'll never say. 
Words, what 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 
she’d become soot, ash, ashes. 

Ashley?  Ashley to ashes to ash 
to dust, just dust. Just? Just. Death. 

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.

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  1. Date: 3/12/2013 7:38:00 AM
    touching... congrats on ur win

  1. Date: 3/11/2013 4:26:00 PM
    Very touching and thought provoking piece.Congrats on your well deserved win..Thanks for sharing this piece...

  1. Date: 3/11/2013 11:47:00 AM
    A touching and sad poem... Congrats on the win and for bringing it to light.

  1. Date: 3/11/2013 5:32:00 AM
    So so touching! Congrats on your win!

  1. Date: 3/10/2013 9:42:00 PM

  1. Date: 3/10/2013 8:17:00 PM
    Wow! Cyndi, a powerful poem, even without the footnote. Such harsh realities. Congratulations.

  1. Date: 3/10/2013 6:55:00 PM
    Catie and I were talking of categories of verses and forms, I love a good rant and I'd say this falls into stream of conciousness another sub category of free verse, my thoughts on this type of verse when i do them or anyone else, do they stand alone? Does this work without the footnote? Congrad's on your win a BIG fan. Light & Love

  1. Date: 3/10/2013 5:42:00 PM
    Very intense write Cyndi, your poetry always carries weight, congrats on your 1st place win, love xxx

  1. Date: 3/10/2013 2:40:00 PM
    Cyndi, may people like you give the mentally ill hope that change will come, that tragedy like Ashley's will no longer happen. This poem took my breath away.

  1. Date: 3/10/2013 2:14:00 PM
    I bow down to you! other words!!

  1. Date: 3/10/2013 2:05:00 PM
    Oh, Cyndi! Your poem just tore my heart out! You have taken a very gruesome event which showcases man's heartlessness, and you've turned it into a beautiful tribute to Ashley. Congratulations on your well deserved first place win in my free verse contest. hugs, catie :)

  1. Date: 3/7/2013 9:13:00 PM
    Another tough topic you have chosen to write about, Cyndi. I remember the resulting inquiry. I didn't realize that Ashley Smith was moved 17 times between 8 facilities in 9 months. A very well-written poem -- strong effect with continuing sentences from one stanza to the next(wot is that device of formatting officially called?).

    Guzzi Avatar Debbie Guzzi
    Date: 3/10/2013 6:53:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    enjambment? chris..maybe?
  1. Date: 3/7/2013 7:39:00 AM
    Amazingly poignant write--I hope you send this to the newspaper --It's hard to believe this still happens--I thought this was for old movies--you've put this in a very powerful form--I pray she is at peace!

  1. Date: 3/6/2013 11:54:00 AM
    I love-love this poem, Cyndi! Thanks for the footnote; Im going to google her story. You must consider adding her name to the title. If this poem is for Catie's contest...I have no chances! : ) Have agreat day. Ruben.

  1. Date: 3/6/2013 12:35:00 AM
    Amazing work.