“Tattoo of Ink and Old Light” by Megan Merchant

Untitled, Megan Merchant

I pretend as if I am devoting myself to some great
art in this aloneness. As if getting to know every
bent angle of my interiority will adequately sculpt me

for the kind of wisdom that makes poetry great.
Wendell Berry believed that true solitude is found
in the wild places
–I am the ebbed howl of coyotes,

wind confronting an empty bowl, the cold light
between trees that feels most like an old friend—
when I was little, I would curl myself into

a spot of light on the wood floor to see how long
I could mold into the shape of being held. I was
the kid that felt guilty for kicking rocks

from their places, as if prescribed, worrying they’d
have to re-learn how to acclimate into a pile. There
is a kind of love, I was told, that I would always be

too difficult to receive. My neighbor’s house, where
I played, smelled of syrupy cherries-from-the-can
and rain muffled by stacks of old newspapers.

A library of sorts, where I thought that anyone
could shout anything and it would be absorbed
without injury. Their little girl was always

wanting to hide between parcels, pretend the pages
were the kinds of lovers we’d take when we were older.
I never knew what to whisper to the lumps of grayscale,

the glossy ads, the red strings hugging tight, but could
hear her mirror the trite script of tv romance. No matter
how awkward I was, practicing the one-sided

conversation of love, I would return home with a linger
of words along my fingers, ink smudged around my mouth.

✶✶✶✶

Megan Merchant is the author of four full-length collections. The latest, Before the Fevered Snow, was released at the start of the pandemic with Stillhouse Press. Her most recent awards include a drawing of a mermaid from her son for being the World’s Best Mom and the Inaugural Michelle Boisseau Prize with Bear Review. She the Editor of Pirene’s Fountain.