I read that the season demands I ready
my house for the lord, but I buy wine and hide the door—
I’d rather confess my sins in a speakeasy, leave the stained
glass to what birds remain, so they don’t head-on.
I read about the circle of fifths, how to hold someone through
the melody, then bring them home, and what minor
notes can be added as wince, as wistful, as ache. Emotion
can be traced dark on a sheet of music, pinned to progression,
or harmonic shifts. Even glaciers have a swan song. People
are holding funerals for their melt, ancients that are shedding.
I mourn by cutting a caught-kite from a leafless branch, but
even that feels off-brand. I read the doctor’s face while
he looks at the grainy image of your tumor, calls it a mass.
I know the crimple of discomfort, of white paper sheeted
over exam tables. You see, I’ve been here before and have
studied the properties of a physical body. Even when
entwined, it has its own gravity, comes with a shiny
cutlery set. I read books in the office that seem underrated—
about why haircuts don’t hurt, and work a 2 mm pencil
through a cityscape seek-n-find. There is a fox out of place,
a polar bear stranded. Scientists are measuring toxic chemicals
laced in years of ice, that when fevered, release.
I sign waivers, read their scheduled business hours for a loophole,
for a full breath—but everything closes at five. Months ago,
I read an article about the benefits of meditation and taught
our son how to trace the webbing between his fingers
like a starfish while counting to draw his anger inward,
on a scale of one-to-five. Five is the note that brings us home.
I read the thermometer that says fever, so I open the windows
to the freeze, the cast-white frost like a net we’ve been snared in.
I read your body alongside mine—an envelope with a letter that begs
stay, and I hope it’s addressed in time. Each shiver-song,
a micro-movement closing further into yourself. I dream that I catch
your breath in my hands so I can show the difference
between empty and disappeared.
Megan Merchant is an editor at The Comstock Review and Pirene’s Fountain. Her latest book, Before the Fevered Snow, came into the world with Stillhouse Press in April 2020.
Photo by Birger Strahl.