Kathryn Merwin

The Hanged Man (A Reading from the Pictogram)

Dear swallow, dear street-lamp, dear
child eyes, open: the wildfire,

 

curling around a stone slab,
a tree trunk, a branch crashing

 

into dirt: I’ve been trying to write
it all down, but words fail, so I puncture

 

holes in the setting, the story, the snow
last Tuesday night, the way

 

it swirled as if to pull us
inward, as if to keep the night

 

away. Dear breathless boy, dear
frequency, dear Redhawk revolver: I imagine

 

you in shades of blue,
rippling and translucent,

 

taking skies aboard a ship of rain,
thunder dripping through your lips,

 

but only static comes, dips in waves,
only my voice in the dark, and you,

 

silent in shadow, watching.

 

The Native Vein

The history books, emptied
into the waves, leak now into someone

 

else’s home. Remember when we carved
arrows from rock, when the boat split apart,

 

still cradled by the waves: we
could be still. They wrote

 

about the day we broke soles.
The way it settled on their shoulders

 

like a debt. They wrote in the color
of your hair. They wrote with the hand

 

of time, labels upon a stack
of sound-blurred negatives. Your mother

 

and father still live together
in your face. You woke

 

in the rush of their sweltering
letters, thorns in your palms

 

like an elegant messiah. You,
bathed in a blood so blue, I drew up an atlas

 

on the thinnest of my skin, and left fingerprints
to mark the places you’d breathed. We went

 

with the drum of salvation in our ears,
water-logged skulls full

 

with what might have been. You spill out
like bronze before it turns cold. Bubbling

 

& burning
& spreading

 

like water: bathing the world
in the color of water. We will never

 

let this language
run clear.

 

Kathryn Merwin is a native of Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Barely South Review, burntdistrict, Slipstream, The Sandy River Review, The Blueshift Journal, and Jabberwock Review, among others. In 2015, she was awarded Jabberwock Review‘s Nancy D. Hargrove Editors’ Prize for Poetry and attended the Virginia Quarterly Review Writers’ Conference. She serves as co-editor of Milk Journal.