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 –
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.
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 www.kathrynmerwin.com.