2 Poems by Melissa Atkinson Mercer

Come let us enter the body

All your bones are women, my mother said, a scaffolding of ghosts.

Could I be inevitable, the sum of your first confessions?

Godmother of the wild orchid: teach me to riot,
to light long candles in the rusted trees, in the cadavers of my saints.

Matriarch of departure: be my tongue, my steady guide,
the earth that crawls groaning

from a fish’s festering heart.


Here we are in our very own lives:

our cemetery of broken dolls, a whole year
of mice asleep in the black cedar.

I mean, go ahead: unmake me. I’m reasonably sure I can manage.

I’ve been the builder of moons from the small fish of a smaller creek,
deep fog from the words I almost said.

Humility was the name I took once, the name we shared,

before we knew how full the earth was
with the things a woman must become.

Melissa Atkinson Mercer is the author of the chapbooks Storm Was Her Voice (dancing girl press, 2016) and After the Miracle Season (forthcoming, ELJ Publications, 2017). Her work has also appeared or is forthcoming in Bone Bouquet, Rust+Moth, paper nautilus, and others. She has an MFA from West Virginia University and currently lives in the North Carolina mountains.

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