Elizabeth Ashe

 

Elizabeth Ashe received an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University. When not writing poetry, Ashe is a visual artist. She was an Assistant Editor for *Fourth River. *Her work has been previously published by the *Synergy Project,* *Poetry on Buses* organized by 4Culture, *Insert <Content>*, *Open Wide * and *No Teeth. She is moving to Baltimore this summer, after hyper-artistic detours in Italy and France.

 

Letter to Rose

(May 20, 2010. Issue 17. Letter Poetry Contest 2nd Place Winner!)

Your mom has smiled for months
to meet you, read What to Expect
in bits and pieces --
your mom is not a cover-to-cover woman.

Each time she gets a new baby outfit
she folds it, refolds every other piece
in the Rubbermaid tubs arranged by month,
0-3, 4-7, 8-10, +1 year, stacked against her bedroom wall.

She wants to remember what's inside.
She has heartburn days at a stretch,
goes through tubes of cocoa butter
and bottles of prenatal vitamins.

I get extra phone calls when the acid
attacks her throat, to warn me that it's a side effect,
but worth it for a daughter.
As if to talk to me would make it better.

In August, your mom and I tie-dyed onesies
together, hung them on a line between two pines,
on the slope above the flower garden.
Neck tags say Made in India, a better backstory than your own.

Tell Rosie she's made from orange cream soda
your mom instructs if you ever ask me.
She's gone through cases of the stuff
to avoid her usual morning cups of coffee.

I bought you a silver and turquoise bracelet
in New Mexico. In my family it's tradition
for a healthy baby, even if the precise material
of silver isn't more than four generations old.

I shipped it to Minnesota with a baby outfit,
sand from Lightning Field at sunrise,
gingered dark chocolate knotted in a latex glove
because you grounded her at home.

Your mom was touched to giggles at the glove
used to prevent chocolate contamination,
the ginger intense in her mouth,
ooooh'd the fuzzy purple outfit and vanilla sugar.

New tests were scheduled Friday
after a month to adjust to the last news --
daughter, your brain has fluid pockets,
there is one arm instead of two.

Friday explained the arm,
the early weeks of bleeding an almost miscarriage.
Amniotic Band Syndrome;
your grandmother trailed quiet as she told me.

There are other things wrong.
The doctors say you may not live to term,
your chance slim as a melon rind.
Your mom sobbed herself exhausted that evening.

WebMD tells me what Amniotic Band Syndrome is.
It's “quite uncommon;” the amnion shreds,
constricts fingers, limbs tighter than latex
ever could, sometimes an entire amputation.

No call on Saturday warned me.
Your mom had thought that maybe
if she folded clothes, took the vitamins twice a day,
painted the contour of her tummy

up until the day the ultrasound gendered you to her.
She thought you would have ten fingers, ten toes,
be the little her who taps her feet as if about to run
and smart in eccentric, creative ways.

Meanwhile you get the hiccups,
tap your feet and sway inside the round belly
that maternity clothes force to look delighted.
Your mother now prepares herself for the opposite.

Your Jacket

Father, your jacket is lonely
in my armoire of dresses, leather day-packs
and button-downs.

I put it on over a lavender bra
and acrylic-stumbled jeans, while I pack for a wedding
in Minnesota. My ex is marrying a man.

Father, if that didn't explain things,
I'm gay, too giving and I like travel. I am an artist.
I haven't found a woman who wants to keep me.

I think you would understand.
This wool jacket is a muted rainbow plaid, silk lined
and tailored in La Jolla. Well-made and versatile.

Your arms were a few inches longer than mine,
your shoulders, broader, your heartbeat, gone.
Your jacket is too intimate. I didn't know you.