“Road Closure, Aleppo” by Megan Merchant

Megan Merchant


When I hear, on the radio,
that your road is closed,

I think of the desert monsoon
that razed the edges
of our highway,

the only way out—

and how, completely stuck,

I thought it looked the way
my mother did when
she tucked her lower lip

to dam
the words
that wanted to leave

but would wash out
the bridge of every conversation
she had to try politely
to cross

simply because she
was a woman,

which meant she had
lips that would riven
and silt.

But closing our road
did not mean
that fruit and meat
would rot scarce,

or hold us inside a city crumbed,
where raids shamble night
and the sky is filigreed with smoke,
not stars,

and I do not have dreams
where bullets knock
door to door
looking under beds
for my children,

wanting to gnarl their
hair with sulfured breath.

I imagine you, other mother,
who knows your children
cannot swim,

but that also they cannot sleep
when the walls
are broken piano keys

and hunger is a wing
against barbed ribs,

and each lullaby is sung
under a dry tongue
waltzing inside of your mouth.

When our road closed
the neighborhood kids
inflated rafts
to float the flood-mile
for fun

and it was lightening
that blackened the ground,
thunder that bucked against fences.

I imagine, if I could touch
your hand, we would both say
that destruction is a root of nature,

but whelmed
under our tongues—
the word that means man.

Poets Respond
August 21, 2016

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Megan Merchant: “If you are a mother and see this photo, do you feel more than someone else?” (website)

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