The Shape of Holiness

by Ashley Cardona

Broadway by Tianhua Mao


I should have thought it extraordinary

when each time a memorial from some indifferent lover


some sweet ghost in the mirror, pretty enough

to be alive, threatened my simplicity with wonder,


enough cocktails, or a quart of sun. I went looking

for nothing, never certain there would be space enough


for all the life-sized voices scratching at the door like trouble.

Some wheedling babble, some pretty erotica, some crown


charred by the coals of a jealous god—I mouthed a bribe

powerful enough to call forward, in bowed pity, the last kindness,


a weak and endangered thing. The shape of holiness,

when it unlocked, is like a woman—


alive to touch, not confined nor covered, wishing only

to have all the answers in a book.



Ashley Cardona lives in the Twin Cities with her husband and two mischievous dogs where she teaches high school kids to unlearn the five-paragraph essay. She holds an MFA from Augsburg College where she has been associate editor of the newly founded Howling Bird Press. Her work appears in Dressing Room Poetry Journal and others.