Blood Speak and other poems

Robin Merrill



Blood Speak


I am not afraid of needles or veins, but of what

my blood might say.  It keeps secrets, some from me.

Will it tattle that I am addicted to coffee?  That I quit

smoking last year, but snuck one last week?


Monday’s Manhattan, the maraschino cherry?

Will my immunizations line up like a barricade?

Will it tell of my allergies to dust, bees, trees?

That I’ve always lied to fit in with stoners? 


That I never toked weed?  How much can one vial say?

Never been pregnant, did acid, had a tattoo?

Will my blood mention the man I love today,

the reason for this sterile interview?


Will my blood report I am unclean, unsafe, un-new?

I am afraid.  When blood speaks, it speaks true.



The Bottle House

                        Kaleva, Michigan


He laid the pop bottles on their sides, bottoms out,

crafting different tints to spell Happy Home

in four foot letters spanning the wall.

All the way from Finland to run a bottle factory

and to build a house of bottles. 


Now it stands, ageless, a museum

open summer Saturdays, noon to four.

For what one man spent his life

another collects donations at the door.

The only attraction in a town that boasts of quiet.


Using a secret formula for his own special mortar,

he stacked sixty thousand bottles, one by one

in perfect symmetry, corners precisely ninety degrees.

Thirty years, bent against the lake effect snow,

fingers deft inside deerskin, chaps stiff with grout.


When it was finished, John J. Mackinen stepped back

lit a smoke and said I built that.

His family was ready, their things were packed

but he died that night, without waking,

proud, satisfied and dreaming of making.



The Adoption


Trying to be a Christian, I decided

to clean the sick woman’s house.

When I reached the end of a dead end

hallway, I found a fish tank, unplugged

and stored without being emptied

or cleaned and home to six inches

of pea green sludge.  I carried it to the bathtub,

but as the algae ecosystem circled the drain,

two hard turd-like creatures flopped out. 

I rescued them and added fresh water,

sure the shock would finish them off. 

But it didn’t.  I named them Timmy and Tommy. 

The woman allowed me to take them home,

swearing she had forgotten she ever had

two catfish.  I bought a new tank and filled it

with toys, fake starfish and castles.  I bragged

about their remarkable resurrection and salvation. 

They’d been through so much, abused, neglected. 

It was a wonder they could function at all. 

I loved and coddled them.  They made me feel

so warm, so human, so useful.  Until one day

while I was feeding them, they bit off my hands.


Robin Merrill has her MFA from Stonecoast and her BS from Maine Maritime Academy. A former Merchant Mariner and Great Lakes Pilot, she abandoned seafaring to marry a deckhand and to become a teacher. She now lives in a big, old house in Madison, Maine with said deckhand and their two hounds, Orville and Olive. Her poems were recently featured on The Writer's Almanac and are forthcoming in issues of Margie, Flint Hills Review and Radix. Her newest chapbook, Laundry & Stories is available from Moon Pie Press ( In her spare time, she edits the small poetry journal Monkey's Fist and serves as President of the Maine Poets Society. You can visit her at


Photo "Under the Veins" by Bella Dante.




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Poems Copyright © 2006 Robin Merrill. All rights reserved.
Photo Copyright © 2006 Bella Dante.  All rights reserved.