“Letter to My Mother, One Year After Her Death” by Megan Merchant

Megan Merchant


You should know that the circus is holographic now—
whips are muted beams of light, the elephants,

like holy ghosts, no longer leave giant shits or hoofprints
on the dirt. Now the big top smells like warm nuts and popcorn.

I know this would be a happiness for you. That you would
still be shoveling the sunrise out at the barn, mothering

me into a hard time if the tumor hadn’t grown planetary,
changed our trajectory. Grief has its own gravity.

I’ve found it waiting in the slips for the one moment
I stop habitually looking at my feet.

I’ve looked for you as leftover moon, on burnt toast,
in the wilting of leaves that hold a keyhole of light,

but mostly I pause for ravens that sling like a lasso
between the trees, anything that makes me feel alive.

I stole a mug that was smeared with your lipstick, red,
the handle sticky from the honeyed toast you loved.

Did you know that a scientist discovered that the elastic
threads in honey twist and coil the same way a cowboy

creates the Kansas City Tornado with his whip. It all boils
down to geometry, timing, and speed. I rolled your death

between my fingers for months, the sharpest edges of it.
I calloused and can hold fire now, without a shock of warning.

I can press myself against the tip of a knife without losing
my place on the page. When I say your name it’s more

spell than memory. Like waves of light under a big top.
Mom, you should know the show goes on.

The lions and tigers—like a gamma knife removing any
memory of cruelty. A year can do that, mostly.

from Poets Respond
November 26, 2019


Megan Merchant: “The man who came up with the idea for a holographic circus was sparked by watching Justin Timberlake’s Superbowl half-time performance—the one where he projected Prince. I remember how much people hated that moment and how much bad press he got from it. It’s pretty cool to look back and see how that infamous performance was the catalyst for a way to elimainate animal cruelty. It’s even sweeter knowing that Prince was a lifelong vegan and animal rights activist.” (web)

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