November 4, 2015

Two poems by Todd Mercer


Since a river swept away our horses,
Susannah and I broke new ground ourselves,
moving in tandem. She proved strong,
guided the plow. I pulled, the harness
‘round my chest and shoulders.
Every morsel of food that yielded
tasted extraordinary. There was just enough,
or honestly almost enough. The children ate
‘til sated, but Susannah too often claimed
she wasn’t hungry to stretch what we had.
We recovered; other years were easier.
Only once was I a beast of burden
and my wife the straining counter-weight
You should have seen her persevere
out there, bear down with all her being.
We reached the first row’s end,
she told me, “Let’s keep on going.”
So we made our garden spot here
out of bare prairie. The disaster
at the river fording, and the miracle
of choosing the perfect helpmate—
these facts are what set us apart,
they made us what we are.

       (Grand Rapids, 1911)

I turned these spindles on the lathe before today’s tour.
They fit tight once pressure’s applied—like so—
secure into the seat and pre-drilled holes
in the curved outer rail. There. And there.
We clamp the joined members ‘til the glue dries hard.
I won’t walk you through it today, but next
comes sanding. We’ll smooth all surfaces,
stain and seal the chair, deliver it. A clean process.
There’s no task in this shop that I won’t jump in
and do myself, if the workers fall behind rate.
I sweep shavings when the floor’s dusty.
Why not keep a hand in the works? If the scent
of fresh-sawn wood fails to invigorate you,
we could have trouble finding much to talk about.
A tree comes down, we turn it into
a houseful of furniture. It’s built to last,
by careful hands. I don’t ask the craftsmen to
do anything harder than what I love to do.

Todd Mercer won the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts Flash Fiction Award for 2015 and was runner-up in the Palm Beach Plein Air Poetry Awards. His digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance appeared at Right Hand Pointing. Mercer’s poetry and fiction appear in journals such as: Apocrypha & Abstractions, The Camel Saloon, Cheap Pop, Dunes Review, Kentucky Review, The Lake, The Legendary, Main Street Rag, Midwestern Gothic and Spartan.


  1. Fine writing, Todd Mercer. Thank you, Misty Mountain Review. - Laura M Kaminski

  2. These are both good, very good. In fact, I say that "In the Harness" is flat-out excellent. It is gorgeous and gritty and full of love (and craft, too).