Charlene Ashley Taylor

the harpy trembles with a distant rhythm
pulsing and scratching at the curl of my ear
she sheds her skin to unravel the scales
revealing muscle and bone wound with salt
she breathes into the nape of my neck
teeth tilling the weave of tiny hairs on end
I close my eyes to the siren
as she whisks heat between wings

tongue as obelisk her chassis morphs

to birth spikes like snapdragon petals
nectar creeps from a curved lip
down my chin to pool in my palm
mouth tethers plexus to belly, hip to thigh
body as beacon I grip the gulf of her
clutching flesh to force us into the shore


drool in my garden
like honey on the hilt
smearing beneath the skin
and swimming through the rock
like eggs     to eat a rose
bitter with diamond petals
I tongue the smell of rust
and watch the water moan
ripping hair from my throat
the lather licks my forest red
the blood on the peach
boiling juice into rain
it shines raw above me


Built from bricks of red poppy
The short-lived perennial
Two years of invisible war
Warriors carve into their skin
Birthing poinsettia on thighs
And with pineapple sage
They anchor fear to hyacinth wrists
With a hand full of spades
Instead of hearts, the warriors carve
Trenches of scarlet carnations
And before they can sew
Garnet daylilies across their lips
The poppy blossoms splay
Seeds of opium on silent tongues
The seeds sprout spikes
Augmenting their mouths with diseased cacti
Words blacken from the sap
And they spit poisonous spores in the air
From here I scream through the screen door
Dig up the weeds, you can't breathe!
But I only see arms in decorative swing
Desperate to touch something in bloom.

I trace the bend of your vertebrate
To a wilting collarbone
Until my fingers are covered
In the oil of burning leaves.


I watched the seamstress keep a stoic face as the needle guided tar-black lines out of her skin, stitching a heart. I imagine myself as tattoo artist, mutilating the softness of her body and making dashes around an empty space on her chest. I invent myself in memory, launching harpoons at the unattainable. She wears the tattoo on her breast plate but the thread is tangled around my finger like a forget-me-knot. The line is looped around splintering bone and the sweep of thread tickles the porous ends of marrow like a phantom limb.

A clean void paints a silhouette where your dresser was

Sinking into the sand carpet, I think of the paint on your jeans and markers without caps. I think of when you would pirouette down the hall, your arms up to hug the ghost that led you – heel toe spin again and again until you spilled your high, stumbling with a smile. The moment I saw the boxes I became the candle wax on the television, the cat piss snuggled on your pillow, the mold in our coffee pot. I became the starved python that stunk for a week – until you noticed the trash and scattered ashes, loose threads etched in the floor. A clean void paints a silhouette where your dresser was and I can taste the antique grime that caked its mirror.

Charlene Ashley Taylor earned a BA in English with a Minor in Linguistics from the University of Louisville. She's a former editor of The White Squirrel and mentor for the Sarabande Writing Labs. Her work has appeared in Limestone Journal, Coe Review, Transcendent Zero Press, The Bitter Oleander, The Chaffey Review, Yellow Chair Review, Spry Literary Journal, and others. She is currently a MA student in English at the University of Louisville, working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the University Writing Center and interns as a leading editor with Miracle Monocle.