Poems by Merie Kirby
Last spring she drove to Fargo, met a man in a parking lot
exchanged cash for cardboard box. Baby goliath bird-eater,
birthday gift for her son, keeper of tarantulas and scorpions.
Weeks later, over drinks, she tells us, When she eats,
you can hear her puncture the cricket. I find a photo:
hairy abdomen, glossy eyes in predator formation,
fangs two inches long. We are all mothers at the table,
few would accept this pet. My friend shrugs, it’s what her son
loves. Just like another’s daughter loves running; weekends in spring
are for driving hours to track meets all around the state.
The spider is, in fact, a homebody, a dreamer in a silk-lined burrow.
Even in the wild she would not eat birds, would not roam far.
Not long ago I spent a day going through poems my child
appeared in. I changed all the pronouns. I changed dress
to cape. If the goliath bird-eater were to leave her burrow,
she would carry along her eggs, just like any of us.
A name is a spell we cast to make ourselves appear.
A spell of correction, a spell of protection.
———How many children do you have? One son.
———I thought you had a daughter? It turns out, I have a son.
I move through this small town casting variations.
———I remember meeting your daughter. My son, actually.
———How is your daughter doing? He’s my son now, with a new name.
Repetition strengthens this spell, gives it sinew and weight.
———How is your son? Having a good school year, spending a lot of time
———on his art, yes, still loves to read, just starting to think about college.
I say his name. He’s doing well.
Merie Kirby grew up in California, earned her MFA from the University of Minnesota, and now lives in Grand Forks, ND, where she teaches at the University of North Dakota. She is the author of The Dog Runs On and The Thumbelina Poems. Her poems have been published in The Tiger Moth Review, SWIMM, Strange Horizons, Whale Road Review, and other journals. She has also written operas and art songs in collaboration with composers. She’s online at www.meriekirby.com.