Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016


Budget Line Item

in Science & Tech by

I learned early on that fear is not
what keeps us safe.

I dress my children
for the elements—we live in a world

where, after the freeze, the soft
forest can bite. When the ground

thaws, they build a cell tower
feet from where my child’s

heart beats eight hours a day.
He learns about the farmer’s dog,

about seasons, how to unbutton a shirt
without the small moons

falling to the floor. But nothing can
undress a body quite like radiation.

When I pick him up, his hands glow
from craft hour, glitter like

molecules heating, clumps of glue
on his skin stick like a tumor.

He smells of cherry red marker.
When I go to wipe him clean

with a kiss, it brightens. We will
not know the damage for years.

I have been told that there
is a price to pay for love—

I did not realize a room
of strangers had already

decided how little
my child was worth.



Megan Merchant is an editor at The Comstock Review and Pirene’s Fountain. Her latest book Before the Fevered Snow, will come into the world with Stillhouse Press in April 2020.


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