Ashley Goedker

My Zenith City of the Unsalted Seas

I push your mud into the crevice
of my boot, Duluth.
I follow your veins
to Chester Creek,
geocache my secrets
under thimbleberries,
forget-me-not banks,
Ninth Street rain-water run
of rocks, Duluth, you’ve swallowed
our memories into your trees
at Fourteenth and Seventh
where I first learned to walk.
Where I first learned to listen
to your bluesed banjo and washboard notes
that stirred slumbered dust from Brewhouse floors
where I first learned to dance.
Where I first preserved every note
that lead to every coffee cup I drained
when I first woke to you, Duluth.

Where I swore
none could compare
to your Woodland shadows.
Where I apologized first,
when I told you the UP pulled,
swore I’d return before the next blue moon,
offered lavender satchels to the Witch Tree
to ensure my Kitchi Gummi travels
would guide me back to you, Duluth.

It’s been two years, three months since we’ve danced.

I clutch your map,
hold your hand, Duluth.
I inhale your steamed Superior,
cobble-stone street.
I wanna pin your wind in my hair,
let my head rise and fall
on your Rose-Garden belly,
my Zenith City of the Unsalted Seas.

You were my first laugh,
first love, Duluth.
When I lend my lips
to your Vermilion cheek,
you pour dandelion, honey and pine
into my hollow tongue.
I wanna wrap my mitten
round your Hillside knee
and patch every notch
in your broken streets, Duluth.

I navigate my return
through your canal,
chart your bridges on my hands,
collect sea glass to protect you
from harbored ruin, Duluth.

Duluth, at Park Point we meet.
your sand pleads at my feet,
cause you won’t let me leave this time.
And I want you to swallow my body,
bury the cartography of us.
Duluth, I read your Skyline    
like my favorite book,
I repeat every word in my sleep.




Fuckin eh, I want the woman back

who isn’t scared of the fucking pizza delivery guy

on New Year’s day. I’m sorry to say,

but I want my coconut ring back, too.

The one that I whittled

into almost fitting

my right, ring finger. I’m sorry to say,

but they picked the wrong damn woman.

I’m the woman who was born without warning.

On a Friday night I shored like a tsunami in the middle

of my brother’s first birthday. And I’m sorry to say

I’m a fucking fish who knows her flip-turns

and fin-kicks. So I guess they picked the right woman.

I’m the woman with seven brothers who punched me

as practice for lunch. I was born

to scream for food, to wrestle fresh air—

and that’s why I’d let them pick me again

and again. Jesus,

I thought of my sister first, giving birth.

Cause I’ve got practice out of water,

in the middle of the ocean, and I swear

that’s how I breathed my nephew’s first breath.




Fuck Fiji. Fuck the man who broke into my hostel

and tried to fuck me while I was asleep.

I didn’t see his face, but I can testify

how I woke with him

spilled over me, how he molded me

into mattress, and seemed to right his thighs

so they’d yoke—that’s right

when I swore I couldn’t tell his breath from mine.

Dark enough I’d of believed he was just

that heavy, South Pacific air that crawled

over me. Dark enough

I’d convinced myself he was just

a fucking nightmare.

But I know I woke in the morning,

underwear ripped from my hips,

and every time I looked

in the mirror I saw him, a blotch the size of a plum,

a swollen neck, I swear. And I can testify

how everyone laughed at me.

How I bit my tongue till it bled, and swallowed

my breakfast bones whole



This is how I know his skin tastes like cumin,

like marrow,

like salt.




For all I knew I was barefoot and bare-breasted in the nightfall

of a Minnesota winter. It must’ve been the way the cold

bloomed my toes from the hostel floor. Or it must’ve

been how I yanked my dress over my knees, real quick

when it tricked me. Turns out it was just some end of June,

black-magic hex. And man I’d be damned

if Mana Island’s heat wasn’t hostile, too.

Cause fuck the man with the messenger bag

who cornered me in the hostel bathroom that day.

Fuck him and the horse he rode in on. I honestly

wanted to believe him when he told me

he was there to check the lights. But this is my testimony:

that when he locked the hostel door, I lost feeling

in my hands and throat. Man, I’m not sure when I took

my next breath, but my chest must’ve filled

somewhere between when he sat on the bed,

with his foot cocked and ticking

like the big hand of a broken clock,

and between I’m um, from the United States.


Look, if I could draw a map of his eyes,

I’d draw silence. First, I’d outline my body in rud. Bloodshot

up my calves, until I reached my shoulders.

It’d be don’t blink here

or here when I picked up my feet, reached

for the door handle and pulled. That’s when I swung

and let my chest crack. Even when he choked me.

I swear I fucking fought

til I felt the burn of dirt on my slatted back. But God,



I wish I had more words left 

other than help me

God, someone, help me.

If Ashley Goedker was honest with every stranger she met, she’d tell them that she hailed from her hometown Brainerd, Minnesota. She’d tell people that she’s from the place people call “Cabin Country,” “The Brainerd Lakes Area,” or “That Place in the movie Fargo.” Instead, sometimes Ashley likes to pretend she’s from Duluth, Minnesota, where she really does feel at home. She spent her early twenties learning how to get lost, read maps, and then find herself climbing (or clawing) up icy streets in the middle of the night. Aside from living in Duluth, where Ashley received her Bachelor’s in English from the University of Minnesota, she has made a point to live and travel in many different places. She received her Master’s in English Literature and Pedagogy from Northern Michigan University in Marquette. And now lives in Moscow, Idaho, where she works on an MFA at the University of Idaho. Ashley believes that belly-laughing is the best exercise she gets.



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A CLOSER LOOK: Afaa Michael Weaver

Jon Barrows

Doritt Carroll

Joan Colby

Bill Freedman

Edward H. Garcia

Ashley Goedker

Sid Gold

Paul Haenel

Gerald Jonas

Michael Lauchlan

J.T. Ledbetter

Lyn Lifshin

Saundra Rose Maley

Art Nahill

Jean Nordhaus

Simon Perchik

Roger Pfingston

Barbara Presnell

Oliver Rice

David Salner

Sam Sipe

Janice D. Soderling

Israel Wasserstein

Rebecca York














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