Ashley Mag Gabbert, Ph.D.

Mag Gabbert holds a PhD in creative writing from Texas Tech University and an MFA from The University of California at Riverside. Her essays and poems have been published in 32 PoemsStirringThe RumpusThrushAnomaly, Phoebe,Birmingham Poetry Review, and many other journals. Mag teaches creative writing at Southern Methodist University and for Writing Workshops Dallas; she serves as an associate editor for Underblong Journal. For more information, please visit    

Your Sister’s Wedding

Still simmering from the last champagne, we stayed in the old boathouse beside the lake and began taking down decorations—unfastening, untying, unwinding each thing we’d assembled the day before. I followed every familiar gesture, the language of long-time friends. We only had the room until dawn, and I, your date in the absence of your spouse, helped undo any pieces that could be undone. First, the tulle, once softly netting lavender light, gathered in ectoplasmic bouquets. Then, the discarded stems of each sparkler. With mine I’d smeared a light-streaked heart as the bride stepped from the porch; you’d held the lit wand to your lips and pretended you would swallow the glow like a sun. We took the baby’s breath, violets, and bluebonnets from their vases and scattered them in the lawn. We snuffed each candle out until nothing but light smoke slinked toward the wood-planked ceiling. The moon poured its pale sheen, its light somehow a bright shadow. We shook the silver glitter from each tablecloth, watched the silks linger like water above us a moment, then let them fall to our bodies. We carried the altar out to the neighbor’s truck bed. His headlights swayed to the west and diminished. No trace of ceremony left, we stepped from the airy hall to the banks of the slick, black lake. I stood, hungry, at its lip. I thought to immerse myself. I thought to push you in. The darkness began to become us.


A hefty rat hops off the cracked blacktop

that runs between two fields. The brown-tipped weeds

lie flat, matted, like blood on a slick sheen

of sick, green fur. Each stem quivers, bristling,

against the cool. It stings. I keep moving,

too low on fuel, and pass a sheer rock face—

fresh-cleaved, cleared clean, the center rare as steak.

Some old tires ribbon nearby, hollow 

as hungry snakes. Like me, they seem alive

to every broken thing. A hawk hangs low

beneath the sun, pendant, his wings tipping—

what is he promising? Is that a deer

carcass, strewn fat, a spilling open sack?

It teems, I think, pregnant with red endings.