Two Poems by Merie Kirby

Notes on geography

We never spoke of weather
in California except in fire season,
hot Santa Ana winds blowing. Or to call
each other outside to see heat lightning
stippling the sky off towards the mountains,
so far away we never heard thunder.
Rain came without fanfare, seasons
marked by subtle shifts in gardens.

Here in North Dakota, we would never
just say that we opened the backdoor to hear
robins singing. We want you to know
it is mid-April, another snowstorm is arriving
just after noon; at 10am it is 29 degrees,
the sun spring-weak but shining, and
after months of only hearing crows,
in the bare-limbed elm nine robins
faced east and sang.


What I share with the crocodile

My own toothed mouth
the safest place
for my child. I file
each tooth with data
& statistics, numbers
sharper than diamonds.
I’ve learned
how to speak
with my mouth full.
To offer refuge
is to go about
with my mouth
always open.


Merie Kirby grew up in California and now lives in North Dakota. She teaches at the University of North Dakota. She is the author of two chapbooks, The Dog Runs On and The Thumbelina Poems. Her poems have been published in Mom Egg Review, Rogue Agent, Orange Blossom Review, FERAL, Strange Horizons, and other journals. You can find her online at

What to leave spinning by Merie Kirby

What to leave spinning

Sometimes the wheel is spinning at the right speed,
the clay has just enough water on it, your hands
feel like they have hit their groove, and one
lovely bowl is sitting on the shelf in front of you,
but this next bowl somehow wobbles,
the sides go thick-thin-thick and trying to fix it
leads to a complete collapse of one side.
Stop the wheel. Cut free the clay.
Wad it up and set it aside. Later you will
wedge it, work out excess water, return it
to what it was before you started throwing it.
Even pots thrown well can break when dried,
but if it isn’t fired yet you can soak it,
return it to clay, raw materials, potential.
Like the line that was the only thing that worked
in that poem about sun breaking through rain –
Wad up the other words, set them aside,
but leave laughter after tears on the wheel.


Merie Kirby earned her M.F.A. from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Grand Forks, ND and teaches at the University of North Dakota. She is the author of two chapbooks, The Dog Runs On and The Thumbelina Poems. In 2016 and 2013 she received North Dakota Council on the Arts Individual Artist Grants. Her poems have appeared in Quartet Journal, Sheila-na-gig Online, and other journals, with work forthcoming in West Trade Review and Mom Egg Review.