Strawberry, California; Andromeda; Dwelling
By: Milo Merrill
it isn’t God’s fault we like the same TV shows, laugh
at the same jokes and become each other’s colloquialisms.
I don’t know what I am to you besides a friend and I don’t
really want to be your anything else except for the way
strawberry jam squeezed itself out of my pores when it got
too hot. I want a hundred miles to yell through your sunroof
well on our way to Tennessee. you call yourself a slut and I think
it’s funny but sometimes I’m still terrified of smoke alarms
before they even start screaming so maybe that’s not
what you meant. I’d hold you down impossibly and count
your freckles by the thousand like I’m trying to sleep but
I probably wouldn’t kiss you if you asked even though
it isn’t my fault we like the same songs, run the same hymns
and look to the stars like calamity double-crossed them.
maybe I just don’t want you to be my Persephone or
another honeybee buzzing up north as the icecaps melt.
maybe I only want that heavy sleep feeling in the back
of my throat forever, radio station static with a voice
like a bump in the road, eating at some animal crawling
in my belly, ouroboros. I can grind my own teeth just fine.
what I wanted four days ago was to carve the words oh baby
into the wax candle of my left thigh curving down into the sullied veins
flex fat and muscle into and against the little pocket knife I bought
downtown dripping glitter crimson Carrie White down my legs
white knee-high compression socks and military boots parade
down the dark suburban streets and all the boys and bodysnatchers
would whistle schadenfreude at me oh baby! and I wanted it in every color,
so can't you see me oil-slick shining? don't you remember the day you learned
about Andromeda and us chewing each other up so redolent of anthropophagy
in the Sierra Nevada and all the sparks vomiting up out of funeral pyres
four and a half billion years out and how you could see your reflection all
messy and missing an eye in the kitchen knife you envisioned
held up against your throat? don't you remember realizing nothing's real
once you die? the simplest solution is don't die and it really should be that easy.
what I wanted four days ago was to find the highest nearby cliff
and to drive my mother's Jeep Renegade over it just to see if I would live or land
in Andromeda because one off-day, one misstep, one rolled ankle
sends me hurtling. stability is the bastard child of routine and
I didn't walk my dog this morning so I won't sleep at all tonight.
what I want to remember is that life is not a photograph. instead
it's molasses black out here in the cosmos and I am so much smaller
than that shimmering fried-egg oasis of a galaxy.
fucked up that some bastard
was the first man-thing to want
for power couldn't we have stuck
to the barter system I'll give you
honeysuckle for mulberry rewind
millenia go back to your mud-home
I forgive you. ancestor everything hinges
on it. hypocritical Christ-cut wound
someday on the left and right a
body wants for. complicated
when I said I didn't want kids and
i wouldn't ever get married now
my parents won't get a wedding
invite if I ever get a wedding along-
side a man or a woman or beloved
with a body cut like mine for
wanting. body of shame curdling
in the belly uteri or a kidney stabbing
or clotted paranoid calves wrapped tight
a warning to the ultrasound technician
before she set cold to my thighs, face
red mumbling I had a tough few years.
have you ever been on birth control?
no, shame, never thought maybe
I could have a kid from another
body like I could have a
reincarnation of myself like
the way my mama's eyes slope
down and mine slope down less.
and, okay, I know she loves me and
would love me whole sliced up
but instead I hold tight the
shame, the stigma, the stigmata,
a fistful of glass marbles not quite
hollow enough to crush under
the one thing I earned for myself.
when I said a body is a home
I meant it curling cataclysmic
into myself imagine your limbs
splayed on a surgical table.
imagine yourself dead like I do,
hand on jaw sweet like I do with a kiss
and I say sugar, baby, morning glory,
the hourglass keeps running forever.
I say it in the mirror and I say it
to my dog and I say it with my
head down like a grieving sinner,
sciatic virginal geriatric prayer, blood
and water, Mother Mary when my body
skips a beat, light me like a candle and
watch me melt 'till all that's left is
who I'm meant to be, suede-soft for wanting
prophet-like connect-the-dot brown
freckles from arm to breast to cherry
cheekbone. everything hinges on it.
Milo Merrill is a collector of hobbies, dog owner, and poet from Northern Oregon. Their poem 'Rosemary / Remembrance' will be published by High Shelf Press in Issue XXVII.
Interview with the poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
About five years now! Honestly, I just realized one day that I could write poetry if I wanted to, sat down, and gave it a try. I really liked it so I kept going.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
"Insensibility" by Wilfred Owen comes to mind, although I'm not sure that's actually the first.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
My favorite poems at the moment are "Ultrasound" by Kaveh Akbar and "Laura Palmer Graduates" by Amy Woolard. Other favorite poets are Chen Chen, Emily Skaja, Tennessee Williams, and Wilfred Owen.
A lot of my enjoyment of poetics also comes from lyrics—some of my favorite artists are Kyle Morton/Typhoon, The Decemberists, Lady Lamb, and The Weather Machine.
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?
I usually start in the notes app on my phone or in a blank document. I'm not the sit-down-and-write-every-day type; I tend to wait until I get an idea that I can run with—usually just a few words that I think sound good next to each other. Sometimes it feels like I'm waiting for my brain to fill back up with words or ideas for weeks before I can write something again.
How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
I don't usually start with a form in mind, and I don't play around with form very much, but if it feels right I'll change something up.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
Make a list of words you like and try to fit them all into your writing. Then do it again. I've found that words like "something" and "anything" are rarely useful in getting to the heart of what you want to say. I've found that the core of poetry is a synthesis of discovery and catharsis, which sounds a little dramatic to say out loud, but when I feel like I've reached that point—which is rarely—I've found my voice.
What is your editing process like?
I like to show my first draft to someone. Knowing that my work is being seen always makes me notice what I don't like about it almost immediately, and then I can edit it. Often my poetry is nearly finished on the first draft and only needs some tweaking, but I'll spend a lot of time on those little parts just to make sure it's really what I want it to be. I also think I spend more time adjusting the lines in my poetry than I spend actually writing the poem itself. I want the rhythm to be perfect, for the line breaks to feel like they're there for a reason, for the words to be slotted into place just right.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
When it feels like I've cut it into the right shape. Have you ever made a paper snowflake and
thought, "oh, I'll just make one last cut", and that one cut is the one that makes the paper fall apart? It's like that. A whole poem can be ruined if I work too hard trying to end it "correctly" or trying to iron out the edges. Once I can read through the whole work without anything catching, then I know it's finished.