What She Wanted
A sudden blow: the great wings beating still…
— Yeats, “Leda and the Swan”
Not what you think. She imagined
love, yes, and the wings thrashing
with the force of it, white feathers,
white water, flashing all around,
and the breath at her neck, like a blade’s
keen side, one edge of his shameless
desire. And hers, she will tell you,
like a deft honing in cool water. She wanted him
like that. And she wanted him to risk
any small thing—his life, for instance,
if that were possible—to possess her.
She wanted him to traverse oceans, cross
silver bodies of perilous water; she wanted
him reflected there, and vulnerable—blind
to all but fierce need and the brave wind
teasing her hair; she wanted him unaware of wave
and precipitous rock. And she liked the word
tread, the idea of the watery fuck—
the cool shade at the steep, muddy banks
and the current in between. She wanted him
to own all that: the depths of need
and the body’s fallible knowledge.
How far one might go for love,
and the waters one crosses to get there.
Reprinted from The Revisionist’s Dream Avocet Press: Pearl River, NY (2001)
Renée Ashley is the author of five volumes of poetry: Because I Am the Shore I Want to Be the Sea (Subito Book Prize); Basic Heart (winner of the 2008 X.J.Kennedy Poetry Prize); The Revisionist’s Dream; The Various Reasons of Light; and Salt (Brittingham Prize in Poetry, University of Wisconsin Press), as well as a novel, Someplace Like This, and two chapbooks, The Museum of Lost Wings and The Verbs of Desiring. Ashley teaches poetry in the low-residency MFA Program in Creative Writing and across the genres in the MA in Creative Writing and Literature for Educators. She has received fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts in both poetry and prose and a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. A portion of her poem, “First Book of the Moon,” is included in a permanent installation in Penn Station, Manhattan, by the artist Larry Kirkland. She has served as Assistant Poetry Coordinator for the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and, for seven years, as Poetry Editor of The Literary Review. Her new collection, The View from the Body, was published by Black Lawrence Press in March 2016.