When every skyscraper is only a sandcastle/
how will we write our names in cement?

Ashley Strosnider

All the ocean holds as ammunition: thrown up
or coughed out, landing hard. This whole
massive rotting body, all its secrets.

The earwax of a beached whale comes out
pale plastic lustrous like the sunblocked arms
of a girl lining up shells around the edge
of a hole. The half-guilty extraction of a zipper
pulled hand reached in, and then—

Years like rings in logs for the fire, traces
of everything we once swam through
line the inner ear, even floating quiet
in the womb, and all that pollutes a mother’s
most sacred place is outlined here too.
But this one gummy record might not hold
broad significance, only the singular, looping
autograph of one life, not a mark of the times.
We are not absolutes, interchangeable.

Find a beached whale of your own, and then
we’ll compare notes. Pull out that long and
corrugated strand, wrap it up, and mail it
to the steady-handed man in the lab.

Or, roll into it a ribbon
Or a lock of lover’s hair

Tap the thick rolled end of this,
your fresh, deaf candlestick,
into an empty double wide
bottle of wine, click a lighter.
Watch fire dance right through the rainbow,
burning through a psychedelic spectrum,
tinsel Christmas tree spinning. In each
embedded chemical memory a new ghost
tap-dances in a Technicolor coat
while you hold vigil, sing “Silent Night.”

Angels on Horseback or Devils

There are so many ways to eat an oyster.
Most require the opening of the mouth.

Most require forced entry, levers like
little bitty pirate swords, tiny tridents.

Robbery leverage the twist and the give
the hiss when they open up and say ahh

They say work for it. They say teach a man
to fish, boy, don’t nothing come free.

You say Aphrodite, I say aphrodisiac.
You say bivalve, I say bivouac.

The road to hell is paved with shells.
They say The American Dream.

Most require proof of insurance.
Most require membership fees.

Tack a pearl to a pin and slide it
straight through your ear. A speck

of dirt incubated, made finery,
just like that. Just give it time.

ASHLEY STROSNIDER holds an MFA from the University of South Carolina. Her work appears in Fifth Wednesday,Nashville Review, Word Riot, and Smokelong Quarterly, among others. Her reviews appear in Publishers Weekly. She is the fiction editor at Pithead Chapel and an assistant editor at Drunken Boat. She currently lives in Charleston, SC, where she works as a copyeditor and advocate for the Oxford comma.