Ashley Toliver is 5'6". One time, when my mom was visiting me in Portland, I hosted her at Crema, and Ashley was sitting at another table–this was before I ever really had a conversation with Ashley–and my mom said to me that Ashley was one of the most beautiful women she had ever seen, and I told my mom that I knew her and that her name was Ashley. I told my mom that we were friends kind of. I think it impressed my mom that I knew one of the most beautiful women she had ever seen, even though I refused to really prove it by going and talking to her. Now Ashley is my roommate. She is girlfriend/boyfriend with my other roommate, Joseph Mains, and she is the mother of my other other roommate, Djuna Paloma Toliver-Mains. They all sleep on the floor above where I sleep. I feel like an honorary member of their little family, which I am proud of. A lot of times we eat dinner together, and we buy toilet paper for each other, that sort of thing. Ashley has had a pretty incredible year. She has become the mother of one of the most beautiful baby girls around (I’m assuming my mom would agree with me on Djuna too), she had that baby au naturel, she moved across the country from Providence to Portland, and she had a successful brain surgery to remove a quarter-sized tumor, and all while finishing her studies and completing her thesis as a poetry MFA at Brown University, from which she will graduate at the end of the term. And a few weeks ago she won the Academy of American Poets prize at Brown. Ashley is going to go to Cave Canem this summer for her last fellowship year. She is a Sagittarius with a Scorpio moon and Gemini rising, and she knows what I am because she tells me many times, and what it all means, but I always forget. She makes really good mac and cheese, but not great grilled cheeses. Ashley used to have very very curly hair, but now it is starting to become straighter. Because of the tumor, Ashley’s vision was blurry a few months ago, before I left on my long 3 month trip. But on the day I returned, which was a few weeks after her brain surgery, I sat across from her in the morning while she sat in a chair holding Djuna. It was sunny and warm out, and Ashley was looking out the window at the blossoms on the trees, and she was talking about how she could see the blossoms, how pink and wet they looked on the branches. She could see. And she could see very well. And she had a happy 3 month old daughter in her lap. These were things that didn’t exist before I left. It was one of the happiest small moments of my year so far. So this is why, in part, Ashley Toliver is this week’s Person of The Week.
You can read her poems here, here, and here, and soon in Quarterly West, Redivider and Linebreak.
Please submit your suggestions for next week’s Person of the Week to me via email.