Ashley Crout.jpg

Ashley Crout

Creative Arts Director

POEM 1

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IF YOU’RE OUT TO SUMMON GOD



Somehow I’ve landed myself again in a tiny repetitive subdivision

in a nothing Southern town. Nothing in it for the soul is what


I’m saying.  Well, yes, I know it’s the good women and bad dogs

within it. I never stop being glad about the within it. But the outer


houses are always vinyl-sided and beige because beige doesn’t clash

with color. Beige doesn’t make any sound but maybe a hum


that means you’ve comforted yourself enough to sleep the night.

The lawns are always lawns because yards mean yard dogs


and their disallowed howling. The droning loveliness is always

money, and money means enough. When that winter Christian


holiday hits, the people line the perfectly perpendicular edges

of their bank-loaned homes with clear but white lights that mimic


a snowfall that would shut the usually heat-singed town down

for days of frozen fear of the random cruelties of nature –tires


uncontrollable on the ice-black roads. And then the prayers for a thaw

and a return to driving in a pattern from retail to restaurant chain.


I’m forgetting to mention the wreaths that insert a perfect circle

into each weather-sealed window, tied with a synthetic red bow


and lit with a single light like a candle but not fire at all, at all,

that burning. Subdivisors, I drive past you and fast as you blend


into your own unremarkable version of perfect peace and pray

to your one and only God the same for pretty floating snow


that doesn’t stick you anymore deeper in to your stuck glory.

I turn down the roads in disrepair lined with loved but unlovely


clapboard shacks decked with the garish bloated colored bulbs

and plastic lit-up baby Jesus heads the dwellers got on Walmart


markdown at last season’s end because they wanted to celebrate

loud and long next year. God, give me ten overpopulated off-tune




“Silent Night” singing mangers in every yard run on power no one

within the orange blue green red drafty houses can afford because


that’s what a gift is – more than you’ve ever been given and with you

in it. I mean the house. I mean the holy. The God I know hears


the sound and the absence of sound, the one and the loud thousand

lights. All of it is prayer in the brief unlonely joy of celebration


for the unknown and unknowable, for the bliss and burden of this,

this mercy hurt of birth and death, then birth again.


Poem 2

IMMORTAL



Years after my grandmother had forgotten

her name – lost all recognition

of the faces that spoke it,

became a house uninhabited

by who and what once she loved –

one memory remained.


On any drive through the erased

landscapes of her childhood,

she would watch the overgrown roadsides

and say: I hate, how I hate, that old kudzu,

contorting her mouth

as if it were a taste, a distaste.


Only one thread of life remained.

How the bold encroaching vines of kudzu

overtook her yard all of every year –

draped a weight that bent the tree limbs,

smothered the grasses underneath,

blocked the necessary sun

from every other life.


No method of murder she premeditated

would end it – not enraged extraction

of every root, not poison, not fire,

not yelled threats of biblical proportion.


No repeated police intervention

would deter her counterattacks.

Not even when every other green

breathing thing in her neighborhood

became a casualty of this dark mission,

burned to death in its bed.


The kudzu always resurrected itself

like the heads of the hydra – two new smiling vines  

for each one she severed at the neck.


Her mind’s disease resembled this.

It killed the who she was

while the what of her body

spread and spread its thoughtless perpetual cells.