Total Recall

I wake when grief, like a wet dog, sops into my bed—

from a dream that I am gifted one week to relive with my mother,


but I must choose from the slideshow of moments

before light. They say your entire life rifles before your eyes


at death—that it’s the mind’s way of rapid searching

memory for a way to escape and survive. It knows


how it must have been there before, found an emergency

exit, or window to shatter, door to lock. I chose to relive the week


she taught me about safe spaces and words no harmful

stranger would know, how to spot signs in windows or stores


if I was being chased. She made the world seem like a bed

of tulips I could trample and be greeted with warm cookies and juice.


But now a bar / a church / a school / a theatre / a restaurant /

a yoga studio / a concert /. I try to remember how many words


can unscramble bullet, because insanity is expecting another

result. I can only recall that the synonym for forty-five is gun.


Megan Merchant lives in the tall pines of Prescott, AZ with her husband and two
children. She is the author of three full-length poetry collections with Glass Lyre Press: Gravel Ghosts (2016), The Dark’s Humming (2015 Lyrebird Award Winner, 2017), Grief Flowers (2018), four chapbooks, and a children’s book, These Words I Shaped for You (Philomel Books). She was awarded the 2016-2017 COG Literary Award, judged by Juan Felipe Herrera, the 2018 Beullah Rose Poetry Prize, and most recently, second place in the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. She is an Editor at The Comstock Review and you can find her work at