*When reading poetry on a mobile device, we recommend orienting your screen horizontally.



Poetry by Mercedes Lawry


Take back the words

Today the chalk is ornery.
I’m not in the mood. Bring me
the white bowls so I may dip
my fingers and write something
unexplainable. Tyrants
take their time, fumbling at meaning
with an avalanche of dazzle-lies.
They think they’re running the show.
Clap. Clap. Exit, dragging the bear.


The Wasp

I track the wasp
inside the house. He first flies
back and forth, back and forth, through
two rooms, as if in training.
At some point,
he accepts failure,
and begins to explore the curtains,          
deceptive orbs of color,
but no petal, no scent, no exit.
Then he finds the crown molding,
a ready-made route that must go
somewhere. He crawls along
in the space beneath the ceiling,
neatly turning at each corner.
When I cannot see him, I see
his shadow, as he toodles along,
and because a sting, for me,
might be lethal, I fix him
in my sights until later,
when, heat-soaked and slow, he clings
to the Venetian blinds and I whack him
down to the floor, piling on the blows
like Tony Soprano, with nary a sniff of guilt.


Did You Hear That?

The sounds of menace may deceive, echoing
comfort or the ordinary, not flanked
by ragged piano chords or ziggy violins.

The sounds of menace may come in with the wind
and build slowly, may hunker and hum,
giving off no scent of trepidation.

Such sounds may be so soft as to mimic
silence, or the sort of silence that is really
absence, edged with an uneasy fretting,

as if fingers moved unwillingly
in damp air. There may be no warnings,
palpable or familiar or blunt.

You may find yourself too late lost,
only then realizing the sounds that meant
evil had found your house - a knock,

a creak, a series of steps that at first
might not be perceived as threat
because who can imagine the voice of darkness

if you’ve never heard it before,
if you’ve always been coddled and careful,
locked each door, each window, front and back,
and down in the cellar.


As Usual, the Moon

Barely, the moon cast off echoes,
took on aliases, plumped out
and diminished, wrenching tides.

Alone, the woman cried
as the stars mocked her. Even hidden,
they were countless and admired.

Clouds arrived and took command.
The woman found comfort, slept well.
Celestial hubris continued, adequately masked.

We are neither wrecked nor sustained
by mysteries of sky. We are but unswept dust
in small hills and craters.


A Wait

There is nothing of fear in the gray-green fields.
The light spools heavy, rich, embellishing
trees. Kingfisher at a pond,
gold grasses sighing. She waits
by the birch, assuming nothing.
This day was an argument of sorrows.
She is here to break the spell, to know
a fleeting calm if it will come. She feels
the littleness of her heart. Patterns
on the water shimmer and dissolve.
July is a long month and dizzy with bee-hum.
She will stay until shapes begin to blur
and the first stars pock the darkening sky.



Mercedes Lawry has published poetry in such journals as Poetry, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, and Harpur Palate.  Thrice-nominated for a Pushcart Prize, she’s published two chapbooks. Her manuscript “Small Measures” was selected for the Vachel Lindsay Poetry Prize from Twelve Winters Press and will be published in 2018. She was a finalist for the 2017 Airlie Press Prize and the 2017 Wheelbarrow Press Book Prize. She’s also published short fiction, essays as well as stories and poems for children. She lives in Seattle.