Megan Merchant | I will explain

The black cat she named
after a stiff Russian drink,

and slept on my childhood bed,
crawls out from under some orbit,

neither of us can remember the
exact shade of red lipstick

she was always wiping clean.


If given the gift of another question

I would choose one that could
unpack like nesting dolls.


I would ask again about my birth
story, how I almost arrived

in a donut shop, how a city
bus driver stopped and picked
her up, going off route to the hospital.

It feels important to plant this
here, while only hours—

the hospice workers say—might
be left. Nobody knows for sure.


I read that I was an egg in her body,
when she was tucked and growing

in her mother. That to find my true
age, I’m to subtract 20 weeks

from the moment of her birth.

This means that she knew the specs
of daughters I carried short,
and I was never alone in their loss.

But, I am the one trimming our line—
the last wooden doll fit into a thimble.


I sing off key and light a candle
remembering her nightgown,

like smoke and how, as she’s leaving,
I can feel everything ash. A wince split
into every oncoming joy.

My heart squeezes three times.

Megan Merchant lives in the tall pines of Prescott, AZ, with her husband and two children. She is the author of three full-length poetry collections with Glass Lyre Press: Gravel Ghosts (2016), The Dark’s Humming (2015 Lyrebird Award Winner, 2017), and Grief Flowers (2018); four chapbooks, and a children’s book, These Words I Shaped for You (Philomel Books). She was awarded the 2016-2017 COG Literary Award, judged by Juan Felipe Herrera, the 2018 Beullah Rose Poetry Prize, and most recently, second place in the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. She is an editor at The Comstock Review and you can find her work at

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