Kathryn Merwin

To Woman (Persona as Dirt)

Litany in Addition and Subtraction

Figure 1:

If a girl has six plums and gives five away, how many plums does she have left? How many seeds? How much skin?


A girl has one plum. No seeds. No skin. Just a moon-ripe fruit, bitten down to jagged core.

Figure 2:

If a girl has six children and gives three away, how many children does she have left? How many fingers? How many eyes?


A girl has six eyes. Sometimes brown. Sometimes blue. A girl has thirty fingers, all of them stained with plums and plums and plums.

Figure 3:

If a girl has six hearts and gives two to her mother, two to her daughter, two to a stranger, how many hearts does she have left? Will they grow back like rough-cut violets? Will they bruise when they are touched? When they are not?

Kathryn Merwin’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Cutbank, Passages North, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Birdfeast, 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 kathrynmerwin.com.