There’s a squabble of greying women knitting at our local coffee stop.
They are talking about dumpster diving—how survival is another’s refuse.

I swipe hairs from the bathroom floor, the shower, the sink—knot them
together for a winter nest. The girl who cuts it says stress, as a kind of weather
that shimmies loose shingles and leaves.

The last Christmas my mother was alive she gave me a bright, beaded purse
the color of ugly. I swore it meant she never knew me. This year, there is nothing
wrapped under the tree—no hideous beanie, or book I’ve already read, no return
receipt. No thing to mistake for love, except grief.

The first holiday is the hardest, everyone says. Her absence in plainer sight.
We drive hours to the beach to escape. My children picking up bottle caps and plastic
bags like shells, the salt stinging their hands.

I pack our medicine in that ugly bag, what we have to carry to stay alive.
The strap—cross-body, hugs like the sound of waves giving themselves back.
The squawk of gulls trying to lift offal and at the same time fly.

Selected byMaria Mazzenga
Image credit:Cathy Anderson

Megan Merchant lives in the tall pines of Prescott, Arizona, 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