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Melissa Atkinson Mercer

Monster Psalm #11

My heart slips in and out of the soapy water
as I scrub the ceramic bowls,
the salt-tipped newborn whales.

I’m not phantom enough to love you right.

All summer sweat-skinned under the apple blossoms, the sustained hush, the moon-angles of the
foxes at night.

All summer your fist through our door, making the body beg.

Your fist in the door. Your bullet in the deer. Your knife
cutting the dusk from the bones.

Monster Psalm #12

This feeling is not real, is not for real, as the good mother said.

But what’s more real: the mice bodies under an owl’s dark
path or the path itself.

Is the knife as real as the tongue?

Is the ghost inside me
as real as the ghosts beyond: the ones who come knocking,

who hold out their dusk-stained lungs?

Monster Psalm #14

The good mother was the stillest knife,
a wax doll
in the cavern of my pilgrim tongue:
holding out a lamp,
two cut and fragrant bulbs. There we were
in the holy-mad
in the joy of the project of our lives.

Whatever you do, she said, don’t talk about me.

So I was left trying
to explain why I needed two patterned skirts,
two confessions,
two badger claws to churn up the back garden. So I was left
trying to fill my teeth with bloodroot
to hide her, to be ravenous, to start
doing what I’d been trying never to do.

Monster Psalm #15

The good mother worried me into bees.
I was the where and when of her,
the crawling into ovens to escape the smell of sin,
the demons humming from between
the dishes stacked in iron sinks.
I was the grave of her in the late night
in the wolf’s dark, paws pressed to the skin’s mudded ridge
as the animals moved toward home. I was the home
she wanted and never had: (oh, look how pretty): I was
the recent nightmare, the bridge from here
to the cut
flowers of her waiting lungs.

Monster Psalm #16

This is the good mother’s death, five times and again:
how she welcomed the attack of dogs,
slept in mill wheels, in ice rivers and thorns.

What you call madness, little thief, is what others call desire. (I’m so tired being true and I’m not
even true, not ever.)

What you call ecstasy, I call need:
sitting broken for hours in a tomb

among rabbits bruised with mud and light. I call it the sudden act of speech:

the need for the act: the god in the crowd
of crickets as they start to roar.

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