42 by Bethany Ashley

42 by Bethany Ashley


(Reading Liberal Arts and part-time Student Information Assistant at the Student Information Desk)


42 is a celebration of a wealth of things. 

It celebrates life, and shows that the ups and downs life brings, makes it just as worthy to live through. It celebrates friendship, and the value of sharing the truth with others. It celebrates mental health and the realisation that not every day has to be a good day. 

This poem was written after several others which expressed deceit and fear and I think this is one of the most honest poems I have ever written. I see 42 as a celebration of my work as a poet so far, and I can't explain the feeling of noticing that I'd ended up with a line count of 42, as anything other than exhilaration. This poem reminds me that it is the little things that give us the most joy and is often the things we don't think to measure: the number of songs we've learnt from a soundtrack; or the number of liqueurs we've tasted. I love the way this poem sounds, and I love how it lingers in the mind.

42 is dedicated to everybody who is helping me through my degree.



After a series of questions
in which my answers
corresponded with a numeric value,
the telephone counsellor told me
that I was a forty-two.[And that normal people
ranked zero to fifteen.]
When my hands shook.
When my brain buzzed.
When I had no fight.
When my eyes glassed.
When my knuckles whitened.
When blinking became byzantine.
I’d turn to my newly titled
best friend and tell her
that I was a forty-two.

I would count.

Fated, a full-dress girl
read the most faultless
poem I had ever heard spoken.
And I knew, she could never
be less than a forty-two.
She could write me
like she wrote that poem.
She could take my body
to sunder.
I would give her the
forty-two that I was
and welcome infinitude in return.

Now I count to nineteen.

I have had nineteen bad days
in the last two hundred and seven.
I have found nineteen ways
to smile in sign.
I have licked nineteen liqueurs
clean from crushed ice.
I can rap nineteen songs
from the Hamilton soundtrack.
Now I am a nineteen.
I have lived nineteen years,
and cannot wait
for forty-two more.
Reproduced with kind permission of Bethany Ashley
Copyright ©Bethany Ashley