Ashley Keyser


Only the female makes dye,
helpless to the red that swells her
and for which she is crushed
on the feast day of Saint John the Baptist.
Dragonsblood burns seven midnights 
at a woman’s window to bring her lover back.
May they come lording idle sprezzatura
like our hostess, shirtsleeves rolled. Her kitchen
hisses oil in a skillet and shit-talk. Even the onions
won’t coax a tear from her appraising look.
It grazes the buttons of my dress.
The couples are not touching under the table.
They perform their quirks like gifted children,
the planet of desire dwindles to a foggy star. 
My tongue’s despairing it can’t sheathe
its weary banter in her cunt, contents itself
on steak fat-marbled, rare as injury.
She will leave me broken and crazed 
as spider veins across my empty thighs,
a watcher at windows. I don’t know this yet.   
She holds court, her wit a mordant fixing us rapt.
The guests will canter home on their shadows
to war together, arch and flush.
She will find my body transfigured
to a single red thought.

Tyrian Purple 

This mad desire smelling of ocean and urine 
is sumptuary as the weasel’s former face 
revived on a zibellino in diamonds. Dye requiring
new alphabets, so many shells milked 
they’re visible from space, the heaps in their antlers 
pale as wasted cum, which sires monsters.
Purple stands for “the unnecessary.” 
But what kind of love is a closed-loop system? 
Mine grew Phoenician, swarmed hourly chimeras:
breasts on my breasts thoughts, ass in my lap thoughts, 
supplicant thoughts wearing my knees raw. 
I would have let myself be trampled 
by forty mules in a Chinese mountain pass 
like the wandering botanist captive in the idea 
of a bulb of a purple-freaked-white royal lily, royal 
for the woman throned on the mind. 
Her absence a cataract, everything blurring in it. 
Envy those women vestal as air, hanging together 
in bed’s funk and twinspeak like scales. So content, 
their bodies must have no holes at all. “I don’t 
fantasize about you,” she said when she left. 
I had enough fantasy for us both, 
a gross abundance and no longer necessary.  

From the Author: Derek Jarman: “Color seems to have a Queer bent!” These poems follow that bent, from my book-in-progress coupling color with queer desire. I love vibrant color for its arrogance. It is extra (as in histrionic or unnecessary), it’s tacky, tawdry, sensual, it menaces the populace with lavender, it flags “do anything you want to me” from an orange back-pocket hanky. Never static, color is evidence of change—it runs, fades, tarnishes, bleeds—and startles my eye, like the sight of a longed-for person, into a fugitive moment of joy. 

Ashley Keyser lives in Chicago. Her work has appeared in publications like Adroit Journal, Quarterly West, Copper Nickel, and Best New Poets. You can find her online at