Ashley Colley


Roused from the cave, you are borne into the air

And the air shines

For you transfigure yourself into light

White serpent with wings to fake out the birds

Indeed, all the beasts of the earth

Are bewitched by your strangeness

For when you grow old

You look east through a hole to the sun

Loose your skin and squeeze through

And so return to your youth

Striped serpent with fins

They say you were made from the soft of a spine

Painted and clothed

In these garments, red crested with horns

They say you must shuck the old skins and look east

Bearded with feet like a dove

You grow old

Your skinned skin starts to reek

And thin till it’s holed

Through your side, you see a poor creature

Asleep on the shore

Roll in the mud, slide into its gullet

The innards destroyed

You must throw off the body

Indeed, you may exit unharmed

Biographical Statement

Ashley Colley's poems have appeared in Orion, Colorado Review, The Spectacle, Annulet, Black Warrior Review, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a Fulbright grant to France, where she studied images of animals from cave art to early cinema. "Snake Psalm in a Book Made of Skins" borrows language from Willene B. Clark's translation of the Second-family bestiary in A Medieval Book of Beasts.