Collection of Poetry

by ace boggess

Empty Xanax Bottle

Washed by overflow the Ohio

left for her to notice

her mother’s name labelling amber.

Our universe

is full of coincidences that seem cosmic:

so many women named Kim,

plenty with her common surname.

We saw, lifted it from mud, read details

like lyrics to a song forgotten years before.

She & I shared the strange so often

like the time we went for steaks &

the waitress brought us

a menu without pages, words—

we called it Zen, we called it psychic.

This bottle we thought of more as an omen:

ominous, vesting us

in a past she always confronted

during our walks along the riverbank.

Wanting to save her from memory’s

jagged spoon, I snatched the cylinder,

threw it back, empty of messages &

tablets: broken package,

rent ship, a long goodbye.


More painful than a blade

piercing tender fat of the back

because no adrenaline floods the system,

reboots fight or flight. How can

something so small hurt so much?

Yank it, bite, rub back & forth like a lever,

like the opposite of erectile tissue.

Squirm from its agonies,

our hands foci of minor woundings.

Paper cuts, pinpricks, a feast for mosquitos,

sure, but holiest is the hangnail,

spearing, begging to invoke what blood

the throat behind it gurgles, waiting.

Even when avoided like politics

at the dinner table, we recognize it,

ready to lash out at us, plead

for attention, leave us wishing

we never tore into it at all.

“Is Every Day a Battle, or Are You at Peace?”

—survey for ex-cons

Night sky with stars exploding (exploded,

past tense, so distant bomb light reaches us

late)—I didn’t see it for five years

except through a sliver of glass.

The rec yard I rarely visited

closed to advances after dark.

Now I stand outside to smoke,

adding a red giant to the universe that frames it.

Days are little wars

for food, employment, dread of shaking hands

with strangers. I’m not sure how to live

in the light. I never understood it.

Nights, at least, rub my shoulders,

lean against my back like a wife who loves me

when the room is dim, our candles lit.

“Do You Feel Guilty About What You Did?”

—survey for ex-cons

I have stabbed & been stabbed,

mouths of our wounds puckered

in moues—is that empathy?

I’ve hurt & been hurt.

I’ve cursed, screamed,

heard those havoc cries

thrown back at me.

I’ve lived in the prison of my blood,

the prison I created to contain me.

Guilt? I confessed

like an adulterer to his wife,

although she didn’t want to know.

There’s a price to be paid in hours.

Suffering arrives by flea bites &

the maws of sharks—

each assault a sort of penance.

I’ve taken my vow of chast-

isement. I beat myself up

when others won’t.

Memory builds another

penitentiary—I’ve stayed

long enough. I’m free.

I grant myself clemency,

as should all whose scales

balance, futures tied

to flimsiest parole.

About the Author


Ace Boggess is author of four books of poetry, most recently I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So (Unsolicited Press, 2018). His writing appears in Notre Dame Review, Rhino, North Dakota Quarterly, Rattle, and many other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.