Ashley Steineger

Small Town Living

If you fear needles, don’t walk
barefoot except in your own garden.
If you grow roses, bears will eat you.
If you grow anything else, bears may eat you.
The neighbor, not the one who manufactures
crystal meth, but the lady who left
her teeth on your stoop yesterday,
will always make a better strawberry
rhubarb pie. If you don’t enjoy
pie, bears might eat you.
They can smell who belongs.
If you have secrets, leave them
on a clothesline so the Southern wind
can blow them through town.
And if for some reason, you moved here
on purpose, to hear your heart
beat against the fragile cage
of your chest, or to stand unafraid
on dark and vacant streets,
then you’re already a broken bone,
without sense. Bears will eat you.


Ashley Steineger is a poet, freelance writer, and mental health advocate. Her poetry and personal essays have appeared in Mohave Heart, Tiny Spoon, The Mighty, Silver Birch Press and Life in Ten Minutes. She received her MFA from Queen’s University of Charlotte. Ashley currently lives in Raleigh, NC where she enjoys fishing, avoiding small talk, and tattoos.

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