Sally Ashton

I very well remember what kind of man you were when you set sail from Ithaca

                                                    Penelope, The Odyssey

Of birds we seem to know
something the kinds of consolation
a crow brings buries in the backyard
digs up later we have seen (I have
seen have you) cedar waxwings
flock to the privet hedges
gorge on the berries and disappear
for the rest of the year yet
they return to feast again seasonally
come on how much metaphor
can we bear the busy birdfeeder
draws a hawk each spring she
takes out a dove a robin some feathered
loved one we love the crows omen
married for life I fear
for them four years now right
since that first ill-fated nest in the cypress
brought them to the yard
I look for them will they be poisoned
or simply lost as all lives are lost
we’ve been given one more spring
with the pair a relief to recognize them
even they look older now
huddled in the tree waiting to see us
throw a nut a sort of consolation
these birds so much depends on them
how they settle in as we too
tend to our own small rituals
year after year somehow—
but I do very well remember you

Soil Gives Way; Rock Insists


Italian earth exudes. The skin, hands, feet of it. A substance more human than geological, as much body as it is carbon, calcium or iron, made alive by those who tilled and shaped it, fed armies and empires from it, gave it their battles and blood, built on it, who have buried themselves, their cities, their artifacts beneath its crumbled loam. The trees and crops must draw this essence in, breathe it back into the air because I do not shake it off and the light hums.


In Aquileia beneath the Basilica’s marble lies a fine mosaic floor swept clean, covered over with a plexiglas shield. The 1st century tile setters did a bang-up job, their patterns of roosters, sea monsters and intricate knots still vivid, and even though I can’t touch it, know what it would feel like to walk on barefoot, the sound of waves breaking through the villa’s open window, blue shafts of moonlight, the slide of skin against tile cool and rough that the soles of my feet yearned. The breeze too.


Stone steps lead below that floor to catacombs, a buried pagan temple converted to a crypt for martyred saints, their bodies secreted away. Glass fronted reliquaries preserve their names, their ulnas and clavicles, a piece of skull. A ring. An undented silence like the surface of the moon longing for air.

Sally Ashton

Sally Ashton is the author of Some Odd Afternoon and Editor-in-Chief of DMQ Review, an online journal featuring poetry and art. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Brevity, Zyzzyva, Poet Lore, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Fish Anthology: First Prize Fish Flash Fiction. She teaches at San José State University.