This Is a Serious Consideration by Megan Merchant

of hamsters, and why,
I’ve yet to see one
with the feral cats

in the barn

snarling into the hay
or burrowing in the sawdust
like dunes of sand,

gnawing cracked corn
as thanks
for the songbirds

that spent spring
animating the tree-line
with their

I read that
they have terrible
and were discovered
in Syria, first

that each golden
creature caged
in our living rooms
can be traced
to a mother
and her dozen pups

caught in Aleppo.

This is a serious consideration
of bloodlines,

and crossroads,
barrel bombs
that slaughter and bury

succeeded by barrel bombs
to slaughter those who ran
to unearth and recover
those trapped
from the first—

this how we bury the story—

and the mother who
has lost all but one
child, wails in a way
that machetes any grief
we might fear knowing.

This poem was never really
about hamsters,

but what you are comfortable
letting into your living room,

so I built the cage
to put you at ease,
to create enough distance
so you might see the wheel
spinning and spinning,

and to give you time
enough to rub your back
on every surface
so that you could
find your way home
by smell.

Imagine if that place
existed now only
in your memories and dreams,

and the reality of day-hours
are wounded
soft with bruises,

while you wake each morning
to dress the gashes and loss
that split, again, overnight,

but the last hospital has fallen,
and although you are standing
on the concrete

it feels impossible
that you might ever rise from the rubble.

Megan Merchant is mostly forthcoming. She is the author of two full-length poetry collections: Gravel Ghosts (Glass Lyre Press, 2016 Book of the Year), The Dark’s Humming (2015 Lyrebird Prize, Glass Lyre Press, forthcoming 2017), four chapbooks, and a children’s book with Philomel Books. You can find her work at

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