Ash’s Lament

Laura G. Southern

Ash’s Lament

Words for what we are defy,
      demand apology.
Magiholic. So ugly on the tongue,
that sulfuric taste of victory like golden nectar or coins blood-bright,
power sizzled and brutal funneling into soldiers’ veins –
necessary, at that time. Justice drowned in buttercups, mined from the dying
forest and processed, synthesized, bottled for consumption. It feels like
power, does it not, to choose what eventually kills you?
The junkyard, at this time, sprawled over the scoured planet, glinting
mounds of trash to them, unsightly, and to us
nameless, a beacon for lost ghosts.
Those containers forged to hold
our life and our death, in equal tandem. Recycled here,
churned into furniture and solar panels and trinkets for the people
our bodies saved.
Five jars for one silver piece. Enough to buy more, perhaps. Off black mar-
ket dealers brave enough to sell despite the prohibition laws. We always knew
before that first sip on the training ground, we might die but we would die
obliterated by that which we chose to swallow.
I stand in line, waiting for the scale, my slung bag of jars clinking with every
step, as we shift for our turn at judgement. The dust of dying planets still falls
in silver ash on my world.

Laura G. Southern is a fantasy writer and an associate agent at Wolf Literary. She has a BA in English Literature from Baylor University, as well as an MS in Publishing from New York University. Her speculative bedtime stories can be found on BetterSleep, an app that has 55 million downloads to date; and her fantasy short story is included in Outland Entertainment’s To Root Somewhere Beautiful: An Anthology of Reclamation. Originally from Mesquite, Texas, Laura and her cat now call Brooklyn home.

Author’s Backstory: I spent the odd weekend as a kid standing in line at the junkyard down in Texas, recycling aluminum cans. The guy at the counter would sometimes give me a lollipop. I remember how visceral it was: the smells and loud noises and convoluted metal scraps glimmering all around us like something out of one of the fantasy novels I always had in hand.

This poem was inspired by those weekends. Like most of my writing, “Ash’s Lament” analyzes the intersection of generational violence with our consumption of the fantastical.

Editor’s Notes and/or Image Credit: Pile of trashed cans [photo by Pamela Callaway on Unsplash]

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