Lighting the Stove

by Megan Merchant

Honorable Mention – Flash 405, August 2017: “Blue”



My son’s laugh is a bird’s-eye view. I grow terrified of the ways
this world could break him. Even the sweet, old woman who lives
down the street was said to find joy in inviting neighbors for tea—
a sparrow trapped in her kettle, while she added cubes of sugar
to the flit of blue flame, the chirp of light.



Judge’s Comments:
This poem is a startling look at the fear of a parent for a son. In the parent’s quest to protect his/her child from harm, all objects appear ominous—even a sweet, old woman down the street offering tea. Blue is the flame of the stove that seems innocent enough but is also dangerous. The “chirp” of the kettle is “a sparrow trapped.” It’s wondrous and deadly at the same time, an anxiety dream intended to keep the ones we love from injury, or worse, to come.

Megan Merchant lives in the tall pines of Prescott, Arizona. She is the author of two full-length poetry collections: Gravel Ghosts (Glass Lyre Press, 2016) and The Dark’s Humming (2015 Lyrebird Award Winner, Glass Lyre Press, 2017), four chapbooks, and a forthcoming children’s book with Philomel Books. She was awarded the 2016-2017 COG Literary Award, judged by Juan Felipe Herrera, the Poet Laureate of the United States. She is an editor at The Comstock Review, and you can find her work at

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