Ashley Mace Havird

Ashley Mace Havird

Ashley Mace Havird is a poet and novelist who grew up on a tobacco farm in South Carolina. She has published three books of poems: The Garden of the Fugitives (Texas Review Press, 2014), which won the 2013 X. J. Kennedy Prize, Sleeping with Animals (Yellow Flag Press, 2014), and Dirt Eaters (Stepping Stones Press, 2009), which won the 2008 South Carolina Poetry Initiative Prize. Her poems and short stories have appeared in many journals including Shenandoah, Southern Poetry Review, The Southern Review, and The Virginia Quarterly Review, as well as in anthologies such as The Southern Poetry Anthology, IV: Louisiana (Texas Review Press, 2011) and Hard Lines: Rough South Poetry (University of South Carolina Press, forthcoming). A recipient of a Louisiana Division of the Arts Fellowship in Literature, she lives in Shreveport, Louisiana, with her husband, the poet David Havird, and their own best dog in the world.

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Tolo, Greece

All day she emerges on the hour,
sweeps the flagstone patio
dividing hotel from beach—
Maria with the black plait
to her waist, face round and pretty and young.
Smiling into herself, she sweeps in time
to the small waves of the bay.
From on high, through balcony railings
painted blue to match the sea,
I pity her the Sisyphean task
and wonder at her smile,
until, looking out, I spot
along the bar of the horizon
myself years ago, my daughter
beginning in my body.
Sand and pebbles return and return
on the unwashed feet of guests,
with the wind or unexpected rain.
Nearby a pomegranate tree …
its flowers flaming, the fruit swelling.

First published in Cumberland River Review, 4:1 (Spring 2015)


Our daughter, outlaw at 3, falls
for the dozing lion—
strokes, pecks him with kisses.

No touching
the guard takes her hand.
She darkens.

A sea teeming with beaked azure dolphins.
A beauty, her eyes hard-drawn
into the shape of lemons.
A gymnast hand-springing
the slope of a bull’s back.
A circus! in frescoes.

But the stone—He wanted a kiss
has warmed her blood.
Nothing will calm her
until, tight in her hand,
the gift shop’s plastic
Minoan double ax.

We almost missed it—the Phaistos disc,
of clay, small as a saucer,
its spiral of hieroglyphs
evading translation.

A maze of years—
our daughter tumbles out,
15, a cipher in too much mascara,
mad for boys who hunger, who won’t take no
for an answer—first in line for the pleasure
cruise to the Minotaur.

We excavate to reach sunset’s amber,
the sand of Crete,
our child building her labyrinth with beach rocks
pocked like lemons.

First published in Tar River Poetry (Spring 2009)
Reprinted in The Garden of the Fugitives (Texas Review Press, 2014)


No ozone at this height.
Just light, Olympian,
pouring from the cobalt bottle
of Cretan sky—
pouring onto the bleached altar of Lappa.

Rough Guide drew me, scavenging,
to this mountain village—
to the loose fence of chicken wire
around the mosaic floor—
inlaid Madonna too dull, nearly,
to distinguish.

A young man—he is striking—
works the puzzle.
No other life signs—
not even the usual skeletal cat.
“Byzantine?” I smile. Repeat,
again smile.

He does not hear—
no, will not hear.
He refuses to see me.

I stalk the crumbling alley
to an arched doorway
whose massive boards have rotted
a wormhole.
My eye absorbs the glare
of a roofless room
where fissured pithoi of Minoan design
flank a worn stone lion—Venetian.
The dust of ruins built
upon ruins. This is no place
for mortals.

In something like snow-blindness,
I face the double axe-head of the sun.

A thick black shape—a widow—
punctuates the white.
Shuffling past with a pail of food
for her son, she levels me
with her stare.
She sees what I am not.

You—feeder of men,
burier of men—only you exist here.
You may shelter your son only so long
before the pattern of his cells
like the tile in his fading hands—
before, like me,
like your ghost-husband sitting
hunched outside the kafeneion,
he is a shell of salt.

First published in Knowing Stones: Poems of Exotic Places (Anthology),
ed. Marueen Tolman Flanner (John Gordon Burke, 2000)
Reprinted in The Garden of the Fugitives (Texas Review Press, 2014)


We had to swerve to miss her.
Tattered mules, blue bathrobe trailing
the pavement, cheese pie half-eaten,
white hair electric in the Sahara winds—
surely she had given the slip to her sitter
in one of the crumbling neoclassical mansions
Artemonas is famous for.

We were hunting the prize of the island,
a wooden icon of Virgin and Child.
(The story pure romance: a golden stream
in the sea, and there, floating,
the miracle—the fishermen blessed.)
On Sifnos, an island that boasts
a blue-domed church “for every day
of the year,” the one was not so easy to find.
But find we finally did. Amid lingering incense,
a gaudy silver panel with holes that yielded
tiny sea-black mummy-faces.

Leaving, we saw her again—this time
for who she was. Dressed as a man,
in boots and cotton work shirt,
trousers bunched at the waist—Artemis
took the center of the one road
from Artemonas to (where else?) Apollonia.
Cigarette clamped between lips,
she was off to complain (it seemed plain)
over a thimbleful of thick coffee
to her brother, that old sun-god.
She has no use for Little Raisin-Face
and her shriveled thumbprint of a Son:
What were they but keyholes in that fancy door?

Why did people seek that virgin, anyway,
with her droning litanies, her suffocating
incense . . . Then again, who could afford
a decent quiver of arrows nowadays?
No game anymore, unless you want pigeon.

First published in Lowestoft Chronicle, 22 (Summer 2015)

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