Five Poems by Ashley Sapp

Sad Girl Poets

I am sensitive.

Perhaps it is a prerequisite for becoming a sad girl poet,
A dreamer within a realist,
A someone who feels more than she reveals
Except for in vulnerable places:
Naked as your eyes roam her body, noting her scars,
Her lumps and curves,
A someone who is simultaneously anonymous and vulnerable.

There are no secrets; writers expel them in a breath,
A natural circumstance escaping the ribs,
A frailty beneath the bony shields;
And yet,
We cannot help but undress, divulge,
Lie upon the table for hands to pick and devour:
Unprotected, we ingest your secrets in return.

I am sensitive, yes,
But I am also savage.

Snapshots of Here

I take a breath as I seize the view, product of the mountain
That feels as though I am stealing something, shoplifting from
Nature itself (I cannot pay for such a thing), so I am guilty as I
Turn and place a bit of grass, a bit of tree, a bit of sun into my
Pocket to cradle and stare in awe of later.

Once when I was younger, I felt brave enough to stand on an
Overlook’s railing, tall and giant and worthy, and the breeze
Caressed my face and gently held my hair. I savored joy in
Fear because I stood there anyway, defiant, daring for the
Mountain to (just try) and drop me beneath.

Later, when I was older, I felt scared enough to stand on an
Overlook’s railing, small and tiny and brittle, and the breeze
Threatened my face and then pulled at my feet. I savored fear
Because I stood there anyway, expectant and asking for the
Mountain to move and (please) drop me.

But now I am here to simply hang my life on the shoulder of
The land and take a seat at this rolling table, ready to feast on
Meals made of scenery and time and dessert, of course, made
Of memory. I am nostalgic for made-up stories in my mind,
But this still feels real enough (to me).

This place is one that I seek in times of need and comfort
And even desperation — here, this place reminds me of how
Fragile but also valid my bones (these bones) must be to
To feel every step taken, a sudden jolt from feet to head,
Saying, “Listen to how this body speaks.”


Trigger warning: this poem contains references to sexual assault.

People around me have been slowly
practicing leaving, a routine of escaping
in different bodies, ones that curated
madness over happiness, and so
I learned that my body was not
my own. I gave it over to hands and
mouths and teeth, scraping against
earlobes and jawlines, gracing collarbones
and flesh that stretched over hip bones
and down skinny, awkward legs.

I was taught how to escape my body,
too, when it was stolen from me,
my vision blurred by drugs, frantically
searching for something to lock eyes on,
something other than the person moving
above me, across me, inside me. Lycanthropy
turned me into a bird, so I flew from
the scent of stale beer, away from my body
and out the near window, returning to myself
when I was more prepared to be savage,
to take me back from those hands and
mouths and teeth, baring my own,
realizing my own, feeling my own.

I am altered, but
I am not madness.

Give me my body.
I’ll tell you what I am.

Devastated in Swaths of Color

Flowers bloom from between my teeth,
and I swallow seeds meant for planting.
I drink water and water and water until I am filled,
my skin soaked, though my eyes dry.
I can see others pretending I have not arrived,
my words buried beneath their muddy feet
as they run towards something I am not meant to know.
But the sun casts shadows as much as it sheds light,
and I am understood, heard, seen within this land of birth.
I carve myself into bartered bark,
both devastating and deserving.
I see myself in the color green,
a signal of how I’m nascent and hopeful.
Soil is found beneath my nails in all the ways
I have touched experience. I am gathered in your hands,
a bouquet of trying. Pink and yellow and purple
rest on my tongue, and I smell the scent of familiarity.
Reciprocity spills itself upon your fingertips,
which I meet with my own. They touch my hair,
locks of revolution, and I smile—for I am spring.

Say Something

I won’t lie. I am told to say something often,
an aching appeal to peek inside,
and the pressure is intimidating
because I carry words like tears held captive behind my eyes.
I can envision myself.
The direction I move is flawless but quiet,
a zenith of harmony that is sensed rather than said.
I won’t lie – I am caught in the middle, the rhythm, and it makes
me feel; oh, it makes me feel.
An ellipsis of songbirds form on the sill,
and I find courage there as I am told, again,
to say something. My voice flickers like the imagined wink
in the Cheshire moon, a hint in the gaping night.
I won’t lie. Everything I ever thought to say,
it came from a scarlet throat.
So I can’t help myself. I can’t help, myself.

Ashley Sapp (she/her) resides in Columbia, South Carolina, with her dog, Barkley. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of South Carolina in 2010, and her work has previously appeared in Indie Chick, Variant Lit, Emerge Literary Journal, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter @ashthesapp and Instagram @ashsappley.

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