Megan Merchant

What will we do with the bodies?


Dig a pit, pile them until the groundwater limps

with bone decay and hair.


Burn them sun-long, open their breath

back to sky.


Swaddle the little ones in bright shrouds,

a woven gift to some seething, needy god.


Ignore them all together.


A glossy photo cannot grate your joints,

swallow your sleep. They are miles from your language.


The world grieves in individual tears,

enough that we could swim oceans to each other.


If we wanted.


But the bombs, they say, are what will cure us.

The fences tall enough that hawks and monarchs cannot cross.


That feathers cannot drift to the ground is a mercy, a grace.


And blood looks different in the distance.  A rusted engine,

a frayed rug.  Far-off bullets are quiet as hummingbird wings.


They are just bodies, anyhow.  And who wants to admit

grief, when there is nothing to do now


but dig our own gardens.  And wait for the roots to rot.




We cannot tell our children about the night they were conceived.


The radio blurred the news. The town lit dumpster fires—

shredded tires, diapers, and aerosol cans.


It all smoked up, clogged the view and starched the ponds.

The crows unwound their nests, pecked the thread


that pulled the thermometer from the fevered sky. Mothers stopped

wetting washcloths to cool the spike, the sweat-induced dreams.

They finally retired.


We drove our truck to the lookout, unafraid of being attacked

by the dark—that too had applied for asylum.


We toasted with a decanter of wine—hints of fungicide, fertilizer,

and modified rose.  We marveled at the glinting lights of the power plant,


how they looked gold-plated, like a statue of a man foolish enough

to think that Midas had chosen right.


We did not touch, that night.  We did not kiss.

You laid your head in my lap and we read from the gravedigger’s manual.


How Silenus said the best thing for a man is not to be born, and if already

born, to die as soon as possible.


Megan Merchant lives in the tall pines of Prescott, AZ. She is the author of two full-length poetry collections: Gravel Ghosts (Glass Lyre Press, 2016 Best Book Award), The Dark’s Humming (2015 Lyrebird Prize, Glass Lyre Press, 2017), four chapbooks, and a forthcoming children’s book with Philomel Books. She was awarded the 2016-2017 COG Literary Award, judged by Juan Felipe Herrera, the former Poet Laureate of the United States. You can find her work at

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