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.