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Toliver , Ashley

Ashley Toliver

Years: 2010, 2011


Ashley Toliver splits her time between Portland, OR and Providence, RI where she is a first-year MFA candidate at Brown University.  Her work can be found in Third Coast, Caketrain, DIAGRAM and elimae journals, among others.


Though all bird-legged creatures fearthe same distance, it is instinct that pullsthem to standing.  In the museumtheir bodies like sea-glass, an astonishment.The specialist says we can classify speciesby measuring height with our hands. All but the smallest flamingoes must standeight palm-lengths from the earth. Their legs are the width of paperclips.

This kind of gauging is necessary.  To a child,the globe is cross-hatched dark blue, and it is.Mathematics form a tent frame.  In this way,a sunrise is one kind of blood, oxidizing.

Today I read in the New York Times that Africais splitting in two.  Land is metastasizing,spilling open and sinking,  Ethiopia is coveredin holes.   I say I am speaking in present tensebut all scientists say we are watchingan ocean, growing at staggering speeds. Can we say this is a continent, oceaning.Once, I heard a father tell his older daughter,you are a clear pool where light plays. Though shehad also been an island, orbiting a large body.

Is this a natural disaster

The thing we feared most in the fires was logic: We watched the flames leap from the fieldto the trees to the house in succession. Though we found it familiar, close in its grammar,most of us stayed inside.  Today Oakland firefighters are made out of paper.  They writebirch -soaked memoirs.  They have lungslike parachutes and spit up sap oil.

Our urgency comes becausewe too are upright, a vertical people.We are possessed by margins. 

I am thinking of the mother who drownedher three boys, why she stopped firstto undress them. If she was perfectinga displacement of water, plumbing a violentkinesis.  It was late, on the pier, where one witnessremembered:  I saw a woman sitting on a benchgazing at the water, occasionally lookingfrom side to side as if she was waitingfor someone.