Three Poems


Last night I heard something knocking on the walls. It was slow 
at first – somewhere between heartbeat and apology – isn’t everything? 
I heard other things too - thin trees snapping, bowing winterbare heads 
to breathless wind. I could be convinced these doors creak open 
by themselves, that god rests an ear on my chest each night, that these 
walls whisper just to tease me into a shadow of faith. I crave it. It sits 
with me, the way thunderstrike leaves a print on the sky, then 
disappears before it leaves something to point 
to. Last night I heard someone singing in the hall. First it was kettlewarm, 
leaking through a ceiling crack, haunting and begging all at once – 
isn’t everything?

The Secret of Mockingbirds

Not the call of the screech owl. The hum

of the honeybee. The traitorous metronome

of summer cicadas. The mockingbird makes a weapon 

of confusion – disorientation, 

makes a masque of survival. Borrows a voice,

a night-song, a wind-howl. Nothing

will be returned.

If you find her, keep your hands

to yourself. Remember – take nothing with you. 

Not even the light of extinguished stars,

the red-warm persimmons, umbrellas of wind,

could let her secret slip. Couldn’t give it away.

Not the fraying hem of morning fog,

the slippery tongue of the snake 

or the grasshopper. The mockingbird

baffles the eagle,

the sharp shinned hawk,

the fish crow, the scrub jay.

Shifts like loose leaf tea in hot water.

A stolen voice, a strange melody,

might be a bear or a beetle

in the black night. If you find her 

in the fig trees, the briars,

the brush, keep your voice

in your mouth. Remember – 

leave nothing behind.

Half Nelson

Daddy long legs, all bone and tether, 
did you say your prayers last night?

Remember the wooden boat, 
painted eyes and elephants? 
God even saved the girls,
my mother said.

In this story, you’re not the arc: you're the flood. 

Remember the flower-boy and his slingshot,
the one Michelangelo cut from white marble?

In this story, you're not the boy: you're the stone. 

Is there a way to make love 

look less like  
chokehold? My mother tells me 

to ask for salvation. Now I only pray  
when I want you to suffer.

KATHRYN MERWIN's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Cutbank, Hayden's Ferry Review, Hobart, Passages North, Sugar House Review, Prairie Schooner, and Blackbird. She has read and/or reviewed for the Bellingham Review and The Adroit Journal, and serves as co-editor-in-chief of Milk Journal. She received her MFA in poetry from Western Washington University and currently lives in the District of Columbia. Connect with her at

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ISSN: 1533 2063
FALL 2019