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Ashley Mace Havird.

© Ashley Mace Havird.
Used by permission.
All rights reserved.


We sit on the porch at supper, so homesick for the Atlantic, we cast, catch, reel it west — a thousand miles across 17, 95 and 20; across the Pee Dee, Mississippi, and Red —
till sure enough, it smacks and thrashes right over Shreveport, LA. Comes to rest with the tide-swell of cicadas, the hushbaby waves of wind through heavy-leafed oaks outside these old screens.
When they weep, the hawks turn into gulls. Orange cannas break into flame — tiki-torches from the 1960s, back when our tans were deep, bodies lean, feet sore from that trek on the shell-sharp waterline from Huntington Beach to Litchfield and, when the moon drank the tide down, across to Pawley’s Island.…
Sting of lemon on grilled trout, crisp burnt skin. Just as we used to, we cut the salt with gin.

“The Garden of the Fugitives”


They never reached the Nuceria Gate. Last prayers sputtered out here, with this mime show, shapes blind as grubs inside a glass mausoleum. Doomed to try not to die, the Ash People hold out for ruaḥ, a magic kiss, resurrection. Why not? Living things are drawn to them. A snail follows the arc of a small child’s skull. A lizard stalks a mother’s back. Birdlime streaks the arm of a man who never stopped pulling himself to his feet. I breathe into the glass. Nearby a vineyard: the whining of bees reminds me of home.
The Garden of the Fugitives at Pompeii.
The Garden of the Fugitives at Pompeii. Wikipedia.
Eight hours I’ve wandered this ghost town. The dust of the dead plasters my sweat to my skin. Where are they? A last-minute tourist is out of breath. I nod. He aims his Pentax. Poor souls, we are no saviors. At the horizon, a bruise-purple lump: Vesuvius breathing? Or the sighing of dust in the vines? �
Summers in Louisiana, cicadas sing themselves out of body, slit their own backs, escape with wings of glass. Come morning, brown shells, common curiosities, cling to cannas, tree trunks, blades of liriope. Like Hansel’s crumbs they litter the sidewalk- as if there were a prayer for a way home.

“Dementia: American Pickers

2 a.m. He’s awake. Don’t need the walker hell no. My brother catches him mid-fall. For Dad, it’s sunup. No matter we show him the pitch dark outside, the clocks, our phones, the four watches he’s placed in a perfect row on the kitchen table. Finally, he has enough of us and our so-called truth. You believe what you believe. I believe what I believe. That shuts us up all right. We make coffee. Camp out in the den, let the always-day of TV take over. One episode after another of American Pickers. Mike and Frank, who take road trips and bargain for “rusty gold” in the wilds of rural America and sometimes cities, too. Lord, the stuff they find! The crazy-as-a-fox backwoods folk they meet! There’s Lester the Taxidermist with his stuffed miniature horse. Big Bear and his World War Two Samurai sword. There’s Goat Man and Mole Man and Hobo Jack. Backyard shacks where Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots lurk. Planet of the Apes lunchbox, pristine. An honest-to-God dinosaur bone. Not to mention a 10-foot fiberglass cowboy boot. Sunup for real, my brother helps our father to bed. The teepee with red handprints holds me, this stage prop belonging to Iron Eyes Cody, the “Crying Indian” from those early ’70s anti-littering commercials. Truth be told, he was a Louisiana boy with Italian roots. His tear was glycerin. I googled him.

Iron Eyes Cody.
Iron Eyes Cody. (Espera Oscar de Corti). Youtube.


  1. Ruaḥ. רוּחַ (Hebrew), spirit, wind, breath.

Text prepared by:


Havird, Ashley Mace. “The Garden of the Fugitives.” The Garden of the Fugitives. Huntsville, TX: Texas Review Press, 2014. © Ashley Mace Havird. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Havird, Ashley Mace. “Waterline” and “Dementia: American Pickers.Wild Juice. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2021. © Ashley Mace Havird. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

“The Garden of the Fugitives” was published first in WomenArts Quarterly Journal and later appeared in Ms. Havird’s collection, The Garden of the Fugitives (Texas Review Press, 2014). “Dementia: American Pickers” first appeared in Literary Matters. “Waterline” and “Dementia: American Pickers” appear in her forthcoming collection, Wild Juice (LSU Press, 2021).

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