Amanda Merpaw

from the Poem of the Year’s 2022 Shortlist: “Aubade in Yesterday’s Dress”

Aubade in Yesterday’s Dress

I don’t know how the curtains were drawn,
only that they’re open. Outside,
an inundation of rainlight. Call it
morning. I dress cautious, watch my breasts
reflected in the pane. I heard what you
said, but I don’t like to stay the night.
I know the shape space takes, how to say
thanks after I go. I anticipate the dark,
the backseat of a car, indexing stars
while my dog waits by the door. Where
do you feel most alone? Last night,
after the bar, you walk me to your borrowed
room, take the slow and scenic route
you’ve just learned leads you home.
I too love to linger below a bloom
of yellow lanterns, name trees looming
above. Last night, after the walk, you washed
a glass for me. Poured water to its brim.
I skimmed the edge, feet bare against
tile floor. Some languages surprise me
into longing. Some nights a clean cup
is enough. When I’m done, I press my thumb
to the back of your small teeth, hook
into the soft pulp of your cheek. Your bed
is as good as you said it would be,
and you in it. I like watching your tongue
touch what it means to work, to be taught
to want for nothing or anything
or actually everything. Everyone wants
something. Sometimes more. What about
you? Have you enjoyed your life?
Me? I take my coffee gold and sweet.
When I get home I’ll push my nose
into the beans before I grind them.
Fill a mug, let the steam clean my face.
There’s a romance to what’s ritual. You’re
right, this is a lush street. I’m not sorry
to leave early. Look, the puddle near the lawn.
What I took for birds bathing are books
you left out on the curb. Did you mean
for them to drown? It matters how you care,
even in the beginning. I unlatch the window,
quiet now, hold last night’s glass stained
with my lips up to the clouds. I let drops pool
on the pillow by your dreaming
head while I drink fresh sky water down.

Sadiqa de Meijer on “Aubade in Yesterday’s Dress” by Amanda Merpaw

This conversational, deftly paced poem, with its sudden lyricisms—bloom of yellow lanterns; on the pillow by your dreaming—sketches out the waking after a night with someone met at a bar as a form of unexpectedly compelling inquiry towards both the poem’s characters and the reader.


an image of Amanda Merpaw in large gold beaded earrings and a black leather jacket with a grey shirt, in front of a red, grey and pink wall.

Amanda Merpaw is a poet, editor, and researcher. Her writing has appeared in a variety of literary magazines including CV2, Grain, Prairie Fire, and Room. Her first chapbook was released in 2021 by Anstruther Press. (provided for the poem “Aubade in Yesterday’s Dress”)

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