SALT is an attempt, in part, to mythologize a period of the 1950s and early 1960s in the California Bay Area suburb where she grew up, "a racially rich, economically varied section of town east of El Camino Real - the major road and the 'tracks,' so to speak, that one grew up on the right or wrong side of." Many of these poems explore Ashley's adjustment to the East Coast after a virtual lifetime in "that one place." They deal with landscape, with marriage, with the insight distance seems to lend to hindsight, with amusement, with regret. Above all, SALT is about language and the way in which words might conjure up a present or a past, imagined or actual.
Why I Never Came
(Apology to My Mother)
I was nineteen, and that weekend I took
your old Chevrolet to the coast where I goaded
my sometimes lover, the one who put gin
in his coffee, into beating me. His fists
came like hammers, Mama, and when
he had worn himself out on me, when he dragged me
down the gravel road, I thought of you,
and when he laid me like a carcass
in the high grass at the side of Highway 1,
and the sea beat a hundred yards away, inseparable
from the throb of my body,
I thought of you then, too
but I did not come - you in the hospital
dying and I did not come. I bandaged
the ragged cut that swelled like an open mouth
over my eye and I did not come.
I could not say: Mama, I am my father's
daughter, or Mama, I earn beatings
the way you earn wages. I remember
the moon that night rose slowly and hung
large and gibbous over the hills, over
the roof of the hospital and I watched it
from the front steps of your house until dawn.
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