Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016


Putin on Horseback

in World by


When I told a friend that my mother rode horses, she said I’m not that
kind of a person, the kind who needs to tame something larger than themselves,
to break them. I thought of Putin,

straddled bareback in the sun and what trot must sound like in Russian.
If it is ripened in the mouth for a second before the spittle and push of air.


My father-in-law sleeps in our basement listening to a small radio.
I can hear preachers raising their octaves of faith in Russian. It pushes through the vents.

When I ask him to translate what they are saying, it is mostly end-of-days prophesy.
God as command, as fury to be released onto the world.

It is the kind of fear that tries to break a soul. But for him, it is lullaby,
the dialect of home calming him to sleep.

When the heater kicks in, it covers their voices with a continuous whistle
that sounds like a missile flinging past, never landing.


I studied that photo of Putin, the horse gazing the earth, weary from the weight
of such a man pulling the reins too hard. But the way its eyes were narrowed

was anything but broken. The horse had trained himself to see the slot of light
and field between braids of barbed wire. The way Rumi said, Out beyond ideas

of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.


Russia’s Putin unveils ‘invincible’ nuclear weapons [BBC]

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. 

Photo by Ghost Presenter.


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