Ashe Vernon‘s poetry first came to my attention a couple of years ago when I began to see three short lines of her writing popping up everywhere I went on Tumblr: “There are poets who sing you to sleep / and poets who ready you for war / and I want to be both.” It’s exactly that sort of fierce softness that makes her poetry so great–it heals wounds as much as it exposes them, often both at the same time. The complex emotional journeys she writes of have sent me on my own inner pilgrimages of self-reflection numerous times–and they’ve inspired me to consider what my own version of tough vulnerability looks like in my own writing.
~Kim Kaletsky, Ideablog Managing Editor
Self Portrait Dressed as a Self-Help Program
Two years ago, you were all white knuckle and grit.
You abandoned your softness in a cardboard box
on the side of the road—decided it was
someone else’s problem, now.
Two years ago, your depression was
an undiagnosed monster in the pit of your stomach
and it swallowed everything.
You felt like a cardboard cutout of a person;
you felt like TV static.
You wrote yourself into something ugly
so that you didn’t have to be so soft–
so small, so honey-heart.
It didn’t work, did it?
Take a good look at the person you become
two years from now: look
how she is frayed at the edges
like hand-me-down lace. Look
how her bones are too old for her,
how they creak like a house
full of someone else’s photo albums.
Look how soft she is:
like you could press your hand right through
her stomach and
come out the other side. She knows, that
every boy you fall in love with between there and now
takes you for granted.
Every girl who lets you kiss her
stops texting you back.
That you keep filling your empty bed,
because you don’t know how to fill your empty chest.
Trouble is, you keep falling in love with open wounds
then acting surprised when you are left with nothing
but blood in a lifeboat.
It’s time to stop sinking.
You are important,
even if no one ever likes your poetry.
You are important,
even if he doesn’t love you back,
even if she’s only interested in sleeping with you,
even if he isn’t.
Your voice matters, even if no one listens to it.
Your worth does not come with
clauses and conditions.
It does not disappear
with no one to validate it–
Even if no one else thinks so.
Two years from now, you will be soft.
You will be all split-ends and paperbacks.
It will hurt.
And it’ll be okay.
These are the growing pains we never grow out of.
you never asked to be born.
But that’s because people don’t ask
for miracles: they are given.
You exist, even though it would be
much easier for you not to. Even though
there are literally billions of events
that had to happen before you could happen,
which makes you
one of the most improbable things in existence
and yet, you are here.
But I don’t expect you to say thank you.
There is too much ache in your upbringing.
There have been too many bad days.
Two years ago,
you declared war on your gentle everything.
It will take the full two years to realize
you are only hurting
This poem was originally published here.
~~~Ashe Vernon is a 22 year old day-dreamer from Houston, Texas. She recently finished a cross-country poetry tour and is readjusting to the kind of adult life where you don’t get on a microphone and cry in front of strangers every other night. She has published two books of poetry–Belly of the Beast and Wrong Side of a Fistfight. Ashe is a tiny person with very small hands and a whole lot to say about it. More of her work can be found at latenightcornerstore.com.