I Needle My Grief, Tongue to Rotten Tooth by Ashley Mallick

Body Image by Lawrence Bridges

climb into Mama’s corpse and pull
the flooded shores of her together.
Realize this body is mine waiting, chin tucked
over the lanes of skin rocky with thread and hole.
Her breasts mold against me, the crests of her nipples
hollow pools swallowing my own.
Jump, squirm toe into toe, remember
she told me I was safe with her,
straighten the armor of her shoulders over mine.
Fit our hands, loose gloves I’ll grow into,
now black from burning. The burning
bedded down in her nails. I chew them,
dredge ash. This is my guilt, acrid – bitter –
the grinding pitch of a soaked match.
Mama snug at the hips, her kneecaps cupping mine,
thin, chalked, like a memory, a song we sang
before bed,
our mouths wrapping the words like so much tissue.
I hear the echo of her heartbeat, the vibration
bearing up the chamber of her body,
sweet and fluid like rain feathering a lake.
Her head hooded against my back
the tips of her ears soft when I pull them,
tug her chin over my forehead, mouth
searching the pit of hers, the sterile
fabric of her ghost draining, foaming lakewater.
My eyes behind the tint of blue
startling from inside.
The tower of her body collapsed over mine
held pinned by our face, a point of perfect
symmetry. More than these bodies
is the loneliness, the place we kept that’s vanished.
I walk to the mirror,
try to remember the way she stood.


Ashley Mallick works in the emergency room of her local hospital. She writes mainly about family and violence. Ashley has worked for Southern Illinois University’s undergraduate press Grassroots Lit & Art Mag and has poems available online at the Academy of American Poet’s website. She lives in the woods of Southern Illinois with her pup, partner, and darling baby.

Lawrence Bridges is best known for work in the film and literary world. His poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, and The Tampa Review. He has published three volumes of poetry: Horses on Drums, Flip Days, and Brownwood. As a filmmaker, he created a series of literary documentaries for the NEA’s “Big Read” initiative, which include profiles of Ray Bradbury, Amy Tan, Tobias Wolff, and Cynthia Ozick.

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