Ashley Mace Havird

Ashley Mace Havird

Ashley Mace Havird has published three collections of poems, including The Garden of the Fugitives (Texas Review Press, 2014), which won the 2013 X. J. Kennedy Prize. Her poems and short stories have appeared in many journals including Shenandoah, The Southern Review, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. Her novel, Lightningstruck (Mercer University Press, 2016), won the 2015 Ferrol Sams Award and was named an Editor’s Choice by the Historical Novel Society.

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At home amid the fallen stones of their temples
and sacred ways, the gods in disguise.
At times, taking notice of our many feet,
they rise from the worn marble,
cool against their bellies. They stretch, yawn,
heal with their tongues one hand or two.
They trot at chosen knees.
Our instinct is to worship. We forget
our guest-hood, forget to keep our distance
from the massive scattered flutings,
chiseled crowns of acanthus, fractured amphorae.
The sharp claps and whistles
of blue-suited guardians keep us at bay.
They wander at will among the toppled columns,
the blood-red poppies and yellow hawkweed of the Acropolis,
dried figs beneath the sprawling tree at Kerameikos:
wiry Apollo with his golden beard;
watchful Athena, white breastplate against sleek black;
tall-eared Zeus sitting erect, like a stony sphinx,
wearing on his shepherd’s brow the aegis of storm.

Published in: The Garden of the Fugitives (Texas Review Press, 2014)


I am a messenger of the world invisible.
I know the way to the garden
beyond the edge of time.

                 The hoopoe, Farid ud-Din Attar’s The Conference of Birds

Still life amid the dusty pulse of Athens:
this massive ruin, post and lintel.
Columns—standing or toppled—
a stacking game abandoned by giants.

At this interstice of marble and cinderblock,
swallows dip and soar like boomerangs.
The gods are playing. A live wind-up toy,
a turtle with painted Egyptian eyes,
rustles through grasses, yellow wildflowers.

Upon a fallen chunk of pillar the hoopoe,
zebra-bird, fans its black-tipped crest
into a Mohawk headdress,
takes me in with one eye,
the Pakistanis peddling sunglasses with the other,

flits past the watch of the guards,
through cloud-gates into a garden.
Spills all into the ear of the sky god,
whose offspring bicker over their turn.
Nearby, rows of postwar apartments age badly.

Published in: The Garden of the Fugitives (Texas Review Press, 2014)


Plaka, Athens

She watches the day dissolve and dim,
the old woman at the open window.
Her lace blouse falls like a curtain.
Her fat gray cat sleeps on the sill.

From the shadows of the alley below,
a young man appears, his arm around the waist
of a woman in white. Thin legs, gold hair,
the woman looks up, shows her teeth,
speaks American, waves her camera.

The old one pats at her hair.
It sticks like cobwebs to her hands.
She pulls at the neck of her blouse,
sits the cat in front of her like a doll.
They wait for the flash.

The tourists take their laughter with them,
disappear into her son’s ouzeri.
Small lights on strings come on in the street.
Rain, uncommon this late in spring, begins to fall.

Published in: The Garden of the Fugitives (Texas Review Press, 2014)


Megala Meteora, Medieval Fresco

Too-tall thistles nod over the gold bench
where Father and Son must sit, stone-still,
since both are blind, their eyes gouged
down to bone-white sockets. Like children’s,
their bare feet dangle, not touching the ground.
Are they deaf, as well?—or just bored
by the ruckus going on to one side:
the flushed and red-robed archangel
sealing the fate of the bald and naked
and (insult to injury) peeling Damned?
These wretched ones gaze up, amazed—
past the angel—to the crabs and jellyfish
aswirl in the cosmos, at home with the comets
and stars. … Until their attention turns outward
(the Deity still absorbed in its thoughts)
to the three-legged cat in a black-and-white habit
limping towards us, bleating
in the obsequious high-pitched way of a crone:
Alms?   Alms?   Alms?

Published in: The Garden of the Fugitives (Texas Review Press, 2014)

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Poetry in this post: © Ashley Mace Havird
Published with the permission of Ashley Mace Havird