We agree that arsenic will rain down on a concert of dancers,
dropping them to the ground when it splashes into their sweat.
We agree it will be allowed into the food supply, packed into
lunchboxes of a kindergarten class. Bleed their tongues from the alphabet,
leave holes in the hand-sewn sweaters and songs. We agree it will
be buttered into the popcorn at a movie theatre, emergency exits sealed,
and packed into textbooks that say the best minds of my generation did not
know how to stop this. We agree it will happen again.
We agree so that we can hoard it in our cabinets and pantries, ruffled under
beds, in case the government should rise, or a man invade our home at dark.
How we would put the kettle on, sit him down and ask if he was
(abused, mentally ill, disgruntled, maltreated, angry)—ask why.
Then, here—Sip, it will soothe you. We will spoon it into the honey and serve.
We will save the day. And mourn the losses, the times arsenic was used
on (children, husbands, sisters, wives, teachers, lovers, and battered spouses),
we will rant for at least an hour. And then the lights will dim
and we will read our children to sleep with this myth of redemptive violence,
because it is the only story we have memorized. Handed down from generation
to what’s thinly left of our future. And we will agree to call it arsenic
because it is close to toxic masculinity, but also close to the tart poison of monarchs,
and if this is our last stand, we will refuse to let what remains of beauty
be chewed through by bullets. We know how this will look to history.
So instead, we will say it was a wing, crumpled under our tongue, that kept us silent.
There’s a mass shooting almost every day in the U.S. [Newsweek]
For Trump, October’s two mass killings lead to very different responses [The Washington Post]
Megan Merchant lives in the tall pines of Prescott, AZ. She is the author of two full-length poetry collections: Gravel Ghosts (Glass Lyre Press, 2016), The Dark’s Humming (2015 Lyrebird Award Winner, Glass Lyre Press, 2017), four chapbooks, and a forthcoming children’s book with Philomel Books. She was awarded the 2016-2017 COG Literary Award, judged by Juan Felipe Herrera. She is an Editor at The Comstock Review.
Image by Surian Soosay.