The Fisher King


  1. The Fisher King forgets himself. When the blue chill comes, we grow carrots in a burnt-out barrel. I sort buckets of peppers while he coaxes the slick stems of shallots from the garden’s dark grip. He remembers his name in the soil.


  1. By the shed, there is a den of foxes with brass eyes like shotgun shells. I try to touch them, crawling through the dirt on hands and knees, but they dart from me like the red-tails of comets. They disappear into the silent earth, and I cannot follow them.


  1. The Fisher King cried when the doctor broke his legs. Now I un-dig his garden, unearthing, uncoiling, while he burns my maps by the rain-water well.


  1. My heart is in a dilapidated barn. The doctor takes me apart in the horse-stall. He covers me in hay, and leaves me in pieces in the October moonglow. I watch him burn his clothes, my clothes, in a fire so large it breathes. I lie in the dust on the thumb of the seaboard as he buries the gun in it, deep, like a splinter. He might be a fugitive. He might hit too hard. He makes me a crown of foxglove and sedge and punctures me with vibrating needles.


  1. The Fisher King haunts the eastern shore, past the corn-fields and the wind-silver silos. The garden feeds us better than any mother could have. But where will we go when the earth gets hungry? The animals already turn into themselves, making homes of their bodies, and I watch them, learn.


  1. I still don’t know what love means. The doctor points west like a weathervane, but the roots have grown through my feet. They are roped around my metatarsals now; I sink to my knees in the gulch. Instead, he writes me prescriptions. He crushes my pills into ash, paints a cross on my forehead. His black tattoos. His silver-spoon-fingers. His tinfoil grin. We’ll bury this, too.


  1. The Fisher King tears out roots when he’s angry. He makes holes in the earth, and it makes holes in him. He begs it for forgiveness with water and seeds. The second star to the left of the shed will lead you to a den of thieves. Careful: they won’t think twice on the trigger. I sleep there with eyes open, backtracking white gold into a vein – baby, you’ve got the Midas touch.The queen is here again, and now she’s lit the land on fire. I cover my ears, but always, she screams, and I feel it inside of my own lungs. She’s commandeered the ship, overthrown the king – I scream mutiny, and she laughs. The clocks are ticking louder now: her calling card.


  1. Somebody told me there are wolves in Washington. Somebody told me that wolves have loved feral children, that lost boys can be mothered by the wild. I want a wolfish love. The kind with roots like a rip in the crust of the earth.


Volume 12.1 - June 2019

Kathryn Merwin’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Cutbank, Hayden's Ferry Review, diode, Sugar House Review, Prairie Schooner, and Blackbird. She has read and/or reviewed for the Bellingham Review and The Adroit Journal, and serves as co-editor-in-chief of Milk Journal. She received her MFA in poetry from Western Washington University and currently lives in the District of Columbia. Connect with her at