Ashley Nissler


I don’t sit down planning to write about gender. But I often find myself picking at the traditions I come from and the definitions imposed on me—whether by myself or others. I want my daughters to know being a woman is expansive and something they should define for themselves. It should never be something that binds them.



Gynoecium (To my ovaries)

You shake my daughters,
babies who tock
like cowrie shells against the gourd
of me. I refuse to speak
to puling trouble dolls and knock
them from my pillow.

They are beautiful
but I am not

Nurse their sleep.
Do not strip
their lustered layers
like seed pearls dipped
in vinegar.

Hold another year, two.
I am not yet forty.

I will telegraph
through my fallopian tubes
when the all clear

Slip from me, daughters.
Hands wait
between my legs
to catch you.




Ashley Nissler lives in North Carolina with her husband and two daughters. Her work has appeared in Cricket, Ladybug, and Tar River Poetry as well as online at Strange Horizons and Literary Mama.