The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood
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Fallout Shelter by Megan Merchant

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Megan Merchant

Fallout Shelter

“Multiple-vortex tornadoes can appear as a family of swirls circling a common center, or they may be completely obscured by condensation, dust, and debris, appearing to be a single funnel.” New World Encyclopedia

Hideaway
bunkered into earth,
where bodies shelter
when the skyline cyclones
and upturns machinery,
anything not root-locked
into the field,

the updraft—an opera
quivering glass
to the breaking point.

A phrase
my own mother used
because she hated cooking,
would fury-whisk the batter
slamming sides
of the bowl,

her hands
outlier-bruised,

dots of dough spattering
like a stammer,
squaring off against wind.

She did not know
hers was not
a complaint about labor,
but loneliness,

was also a spout of love,
or that

for glass to shatter
it must already have
an imperfection,

or that
she might have felt
that if she did not roar

what little was left
of her would be
sucked away.

I never even thought
that just once

my own mother
might have wanted
to be the one
who got to lick the bowl,

but that was not my job,

I was raised to fear it all—
the town siren warbling
us from sleep,

the shelter stocked with
mason jars we would never
open,

my mother’s handwriting
dating the day they were
sealed/expired,

rows of glass headstones,
kept dark.


Megan MerchantMegan Merchant is mostly forthcoming. She is the author of two full-length poetry collections: Gravel Ghosts (Glass Lyre Press), 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 meganmerchant.wix.com/poet.

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