Megan Merchant

Grief Flowers

I lay my ring in a glass dish
each night to scrub my hands clean.
The band, silver, was picked knowing
it would grow soft with scratches.
My husband sets his by the bed,
brink-grey, titanium,
before reaching for my body—
a vase overfilled with grief flowers,
popping blood-red from their thin stems.
I think, if I let him
stroke me close to the catch
in my breath
will it thrum electric to the tangle of tissue
that wadded into a clot.
Can our bodies
whisper her back into being
like a yellowed leaf dripping
from its branch
once the frost lifts ?
I know already, if it does not pass-
slip into the toilet to be flushed,
they will lace my veins with a syringe
of dreams and clean house.
Suck the wishbone
and eyelash flutters of growth
from their nest—where she’d rather
stay, daughter of mine, boiling in my blood,
collapsed underneath the weight
of a name we never let fully
leave our mouths.



Vagitus (Baby’s cry or wail)

The first cry splits heartwood with a rusted blade,
There is a rush to suck my fluid from his lungs.
They hand him over the blue sheet,
hung so I would not see my own intestines unknotted,
laid to length.
My little nub-bloom—love note folded
into a white curd of cauliflower.
He roots and latches
as a growth tipped along a spring branch,
heart-flicker of a perched sparrow.
His veins, blue burrowing along his scalp,
soft spot like sun-warmed plastic covering a ditch.
I twitch with panic—a thing not meant to rise so constant—
worried that my own shadow will open and devour my young.



How it gets lighter,

treat yourself
to the scented
taupe underwear
from the silk hanger,
not the bin,

dinners of artesian ice
in sheer liquor
at bars that require
and passwords.
Nest there.

Start a collection
of the shape
of men’s legs
in motion,
around you at night,
when breathing
is a series of sharp

or to tire
your lips,
so the pebbles
you’ve been chewing
can slip out,

just before
the light
requires you
to dress
and answer
a handful of numb

from tiny mouths
that can’t crumble
the salt-dried
on their own.


Megan Merchant’s debut full-length poetry collection Gravel Ghosts, was published by Glass Lyre Press. Her second full-length collection, The Dark’s Humming was the winner of the 2015 Lyrebird Prize and is forthcoming from Glass Lyre Press in 2017. She is also the author of four chapbooks: Translucent, sealed. (Dancing Girl Press, 2015), In the Rooms of a Tiny House (ELJ Publications, October 2016), Unspeakable Light (Throwback Books, 2016), and A Thousand Paper Cranes (Finishing Line Press, December 2016). Merchant is a 2015 Pushcart Prize nominee, and her poems have most recently appeared in Red Paint Hill, Rat’s Ass Review, Mothers Always Write, Crack the Spine and First Literary Review East. Her poem, “Filling Station God” won the Las Vegas Poets Prize, judged by Tony Hoagland. She also has a children’s book forthcoming from Philomel Books. You can find her work at