Ashley Wilda


Page 2 of 26

The shock did not surprise me

neither did the pain

but what did was the smile

that would not stop.

how can I not feel happiness

looking at the boy

I love so d*mn much?


a lot of emotions in me.

not enough right words.

so this is all I have tonight.

hard day.

you were here, then you weren’t

and no one told me.

what would I have done, anyway?

nothing. not my place.

ran to the river. the irony.

listened to ‘go easy’ by m.m. on repeat.

watched the pup’s ears bob.

I don’t regret even a second

of loving you.

just really tired.

I want to talk to you.

don’t care about what.

I’d be happy to just


if the phone rang

I’d answer.

no strings attached.


three years and counting

three years,

and I still feel lonely when spring

stretches green in the winds

when the buds start to reach

for the warming sky.

three years,

and I still dream about you

and still wake up wanting

and wishing.

three years, and you’d think

I’d be over it–

at least, that’s what

everyone else says.

no wonder I keep myself,

well, to myself.

three years, and some things

are better, and some things

never change.

I still feel like I made

the only decision.

I still hate myself for it.

I never meant to cause

such silence.

three years, and I still believe

we would be better


than any version

of apart.

three years, and I am thankful

for the days that remind me

there is still light on the mountaintops

there is a warm dog to snuggle me

when the night is too dark

but I’m still keenly aware

each moment would be better

with you in it.

three years, and I still believe

the question is never

would you find faith–

no, that’s a promise, to whoever

doesn’t give up. a promise

that still stands. the question

was always, would you

keep looking.

I don’t blame you for not

believing me, even as

I wish you would.

three years and I want

you to know– I tried to stop


just like you tried to believe.

I couldn’t.

you can’t unknow the truth

can’t unsee the sun

just like I

can’t unlove



I play with sillyputty in the counselor’s office. I knead it over and over, pressing it with my thumb, rolling it into spheres, squishing it into cubes. I like it better than playing with the hairband on my wrist, like I always do when I’m nervous or awkward, like the way you fiddle with your phone when you’re unsure what to do. I don’t know how the words keep tumbling out of me, every time I come here. Maybe because I believe she really wants to listen. Maybe because she doesn’t mind that I’m a teary mess. Maybe because she doesn’t seem to mind… well, me. I don’t know how I have so much to say… well, actually, I guess I do. Bottling up nearly three years’ worth of emotions will do that to anyone. I talk about all the things I can’t talk about with anyone else–my fears, my hopes, my memories, my pain, my present, my past, my hidden places. I stopped talking a long time ago. No one understands me the way I wish they would. If you were here, I’d talk to you. But you’re not. So the words stay inside. The hour always feels too short. I can’t believe I’m saying that–I resisted going for so long. But I didn’t know how the release would feel like breathing clean air, how freeing it is not to be judged or squished into a box, someone else’s idea of me. It’s a relief. An exhausting, difficult, scary relief, but still relief. Being heard is sometimes the best therapy there is… besides dogs and mountains and prayer. Afterward, I treat myself to donuts, for the second week in a row. Did you know that you were the first, and perhaps only, person who truly helped me try to love my body the way it is? I think about that when I go get donuts, trying to do something kind for myself after I do something hard. I’ve been trying to be kind to myself in general. It’s hard. You were always so good at helping me remember. I hope you remember to do it for yourself too.


thank you.

for speaking up,

when I know you’re afraid

of hurting me with hope.

for listening,

when listening costs you much.

for feeling,

when emotion isn’t safe.

for remembering, when it’s simpler

to just not.

for trying,

when even thinking about believing

feels impossible.

for loving, for all the moments you give me

that I can always keep with me.

I’ve always said that your silence

hurts me more than any words

you could say.

maybe one day,

you’ll believe me.

two existential crises in a day is two too many

once, I asked you what you were afraid of, when it came to believing.

you said you weren’t afraid. at least, that wasn’t the problem.

in the moment, i couldn’t understand how that could be true.

now, i wish you could come back and tell me how you did it.

lately, i seem to be anything but unafraid. sometimes depression is easier

to explain than anxiety, sadness easier to describe than an often nameless fear

that just follows me everywhere. it’s so hard knowing my mind is spiraling

out of control and not being able to do anything but just watch it happen.

today was a day of too many spirals, for no reason at all. nothing happened.

no reason at all to be scared. but i couldn’t slow the spinning of my thoughts and my body

followed and soon enough i was babbling about all the things that scare me and the words

sounded more and more irrational as they spooled out of my mouth but i couldn’t

stop them. wound up and crying. trying to explain to confused people why everything

scares me. from family to friendships to failing my dog to losing all my jobs to being trapped

in a life i don’t want to theology to my future to disappointing people to always being alone to

what if i’ve been wrong about everything always and just didn’t know it.

i know it’s anxiety. i know it’s pain. and fear. and love. and a scary, too-big world

without enough you in it. i know it’s because

i feel lost.

but knowing doesn’t fix anything.

i’m trying to be more unafraid. to feel all my feelings but to work with the fear until I am largely

unafraid. i know i can’t get rid of it entirely. i know that fear comes with love comes with

living. but i can’t make decisions afraid. i won’t ever trust them, and they’ll probably

be wrong. the best ones are made out of truth, faith, hope, and love… but fear gives all that a run for it’s money.

but i’m going to keep trying to outrun it, even when it keeps pace with me, and sometimes overtakes me.

because in the end, i’ll win. in that small way, i already know how my story ends.

i just wish i knew more than that.

the day i told you i was scared was one of the most vulnerable moments of my life, although you didn’t know it.

i don’t like to reveal fear. i don’t think anyone does.

but since that day, i’ve had to do it a lot, sometimes involuntarily. i’ve gotten good at hiding it. but fear doesn’t hide

very well for very long.

but when i told you, you made me feel so much safer. i knew you were scared too. knew by the way you held me tighter

than anyone ever had. but because we were scared together…

i don’t have words for how much better that was.

how much better

that would be.


Some things change.
Things you don’t know about.
Things I wish I could tell you.

I have a dog now.
I adopted her in March, back when
She was a red-brown ball of three-month old fur
Big paws
Brown eyes.
I admit, I adopted her selfishly
I was tired of being alone
Of always being let down and misunderstood
Of being incapable of opening myself to other people.
Yeah, it was selfish. But I gave her
What love I have, and to her
It is more than enough.
Now- sixty pounds of muscle and love
Nibbles and licks
Pulling me out of the depths of myself
When I can’t stand being me
She anchors me in a world
I’m always lost in.

Some things change,
Like being done with school
Like being a professor
Like having seventy-five students of my own
Like being a coach
And having forty kids of my own, all
Stronger than me-
The impostor syndrome is real
But it’s too good to give up.
Things change, like making more art
Than I used to
Driving to faraway places by myself
Going to a different church than my family
Being more independent, but also more alone.

Some things change-
I don’t know
Where you are
How you are doing
Who your friends are
Where you’re working
What you’re studying
(If anything at all)
If you still miss me-
I wish this hadn’t changed.

Some things change, but some things…
I still miss you
Every day
Just as much.
A constant like the brightening
And darkening
Of the sky
The cycle of dandelions
Bursting gold
And going to seed.
Like my breath.

I had a dream last night.
I held you, you held me
We tried to let go
But we couldn’t
Because we didn’t want to.

Have you ever head a dream
That felt more real
Than your reality?
Mine are always like that-
Asleep or awake.

Things I wish would change:
The word “impossible”
Dreams that stay
Just dreams.


once you asked if you could read the notebook I was writing about us.

I said maybe. someday. some of it.                 you never did.

one year later I find myself compiling the outpourings of my heart.

over one year from then, I find myself with a book.

it is not always pretty. it is sometimes beautiful. it is always true. and it is always, always, about love.

but this one poem, from that very first journal… it’s not in there. it’s just for you. so here it is.



how we say i love you


happy trees

and baby thumbs

backward eight knots

and who pours their syrup wrong

terms of endearment –

you silly goose –

and teasing little arguments

(who really did

knock over the projector


fill me with giggles

and skip through class-filled

afternoon days

your finger’s mischievous


on my nose

lighting up my life for always.



once upon a time

you told me a story.

you said it felt like I was asking you

to pack your suitcase

and travel to the city I lived in

but you didn’t know if you would ever

make it there.

maybe I’m a fool.

maybe I’m crazy.

maybe I’ve screwed up one

too many times.

but I’m going to give you the same

answer now.

I will pack my suitcase with you

and go wherever you go

even if you never make it to my city

I won’t leave you behind

as long as you’re trying

as long as we go together.

maybe you never cared like I thought

you did–

but when I said I love you

I meant it.

I don’t care if we are always travelling

as long as I get to do it

with you.

just take the chance.

what do we have to lose?

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