Ashley Mares: Unclean Hands
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So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

-Genesis 3:6

I dug my heel into the dirt

just to know what it felt like to

fall into something. 


When it hardens

between my toes, it

multiplies and spreads


through my veins - iced

over as it solidifies. 


I wouldn't waste my energy 

on breaking it open –


letting it free.


If I wrapped a leash around

my mind would it heel when I

commanded or freeze up


in the grass and wait for time

to pass.


I remember


the juice hardened too - it's

stuck between the

four-inch seams.


With my fingernail, I could

scrape it away - claw at it

until it's


satisfyingly clean.


I got mud on the fruit when

I bit into it –


the skin contaminated after

my teeth broke

through the threshold.


The taste wasn't as sweet as 

my expectations.


The juice dripped

from my lips –


down my neck –

fell to the ground.


It slid right off the

dirt, like water slipping

from ice.


When I wiped it away

it made my fingers

stick together.


After I swallowed, I

wasn't sure if the empty

crater in front of me was your

bite or mine. 



                        -after Frankenstein


The creature liked the warm feel of

blackberries in his palm. He never thought

the sweet juice looked like blood dripping

from his lips until someone pointed

it out to him. The moon shined

on his skin in the same way that it did

the villagers. Somewhere, a mother tells

her young how God is behind the clouds

and in their bones—maybe through the

woods or on the other side of the

meadow. From the woods, the creature wept

when he saw a woman bring her father something

to drink: watched as her father shared

stories of what came before her. No

one told him why tears fell from his

cheeks—he asked the birds but they didn’t speak

the same language. He stayed hidden behind boney

branches and berries. He wasn’t like them: but

he slept when they slept so he could pretend,

at least through the night—before the sun

shined its harsh light.



                        -After Mary Wollstonecraft


And how it’s women’s

work: needlework skin


to bones and remember

a waist small enough


to cinch: pinch cheeks

until rosy and smile


at every man’s

glance. When the body


faints from your corset,

thank the man who helps


you up and learn to

loosen ligaments


properly. When hair

uncurls remember


the women whose

bones have turned


to dust. Someone set fire

to their insides. Hands


can do more than shape

women’s skin—crush


berries to feed the

wild, smooth


feathers and please

a saint. We’ve been here


before: been consumed

by fire and erupted overnight.

Ashley Mares is the author of Maddening Creatures (Aldrich Press, forthcoming), The Deer Longs for Streams of Water (Flutter Press) A Dark, Breathing Heart (dancing girl press), and Killer (Ghost City Press, forthcoming). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Stirring, Whiskey Island, Sugar House Review, Glass Poetry Press, Prelude, PANK, and others. She is currently completing her J.D. in Monterey, Ca, where she lives with her husband. Read more of her poetry at and follow her @ash_mares2.