Ashley McWaters

Introduced by
John Pursley

The poems from Ashley McWaters’ Whitework are peculiar in their quiet (sometimes cold) balance of writing and erasure, interweaving the texture of both poem and subject through the difficult language of omission. These poems find sanctuary in the central, empty space at the heart of their subjects—sometimes through the literal erasure of the found text, but more often, through the subtle nuances of the language around them, a language which dually presents and preserves this absent heart through an intricate stitching of female voices. These poems are the visible stitches, the sutures left in the tissue; a needlework of the highest order. [JP]



                                                                                                   white thread                             on    white
ground                           can be                                  simple                                    as satin and stem,
or            complicated                                    as cut              or pulled                                 work
                                                                 ) is                       displacing the warp and weft
                                    of the ground          with high tension                          . The holes created in the ground                                                                                                                are cut
away and filled in, usually with buttonhole s                                   . The lower
            illustrates how                             pattern                                         creates delicate



The pale wing of your neck slides
to bone or flour, so fine it sifts
to snow, disappears beneath
my conspicuous pink. I know
I am only a sodden glove, empty,
dropped in haste, but, would you
permit, I could fashion myself
anew from your hollow rib
or the mauve quarter-moons
of your eyelids. Then after,
no plain scar, but a little bud
would stay behind to tell it.

Dear, if you leave an apple
on the nightstand, I promise
to take only one bite. Will you
cherish the fruit or the place
I left my mark? If I claim a tongue,
it will be to instruct you: Let the little
bruises be mistaken for blooms.
Speak fondly of your hiding here,
of minding your manners. Tell
softly how we are behind a bakery,
how time and again, we rose.



Arrow Stitch
Au Passe Stitch 
Back Stitch 
Barred Witch Stitch
Battlemented Stitch
Blanket Stitch 
Burden Stitch
Chain Twisted Stitch  

Close Stitch
Couching Stitch
Crewel Reversed Stitch                     

Crumb Stitch
Double Cross Stitch
Feather Stitch 
Fly Stitch 
Gobelin Stitch
Jacob’s Ladder Stitch
Lance Stitch
Leviathan Stitch  
Magic Stitch
Point de Diable Stitch
Point de Reprise Stitch
Queen Stitch
Railway Stitch 
Rice Stitch  
Rope Stitch  
Sham Hem Stitch
Split Stitch 
Thorn Stitch
Warp Stitch 
Wheel Stitch Zigzag Chain Stitch         

a slanting row
without padding
for each cross
to imitate castles
purely ornamental
to secure
drawn up to form
see Buttonhole
for Church work
let go in final pull
a small raised knob forms
foundation is allowed to show
radiating from a center
to a wing
padded with braid
for silk blade
see Shadow
for long and short
see Cross
narrowed to a point
requires only one to fill it
loosely scattered or slanting tossed
closer than Crewel
without piercing
work faces and hands
hold under with the left thumb
drawing away and leaving behind
a spider's web
a pleasing border



I am one of you. I fear car crashes
and delivering myself to sleep,
licorice undersides of basil leaves,
little neckbroken flowers tossed
in a rosebasket and left to wither
on the lawn. I fear getting stuck
outdoors, and indoors, electric
sockets. Also the organic: it seems
to be lying. I fear that detachment
is rolling away like a noisy marble.
I fear that virtue will fold itself
into a ten-dollar bill and hide
in a coat pocket for years, that I
will then be drawn to vice
like one side of a shirt being drawn
to the other and buttoned, tight.