Alexa Mergen

Autobiography

 

In plexiglass pillboxes I collect samples of wind, align them
on spice shelves above the kitchen sink, a measure of my life.
The story goes I emerged in an Iowa blizzard. Snap
a chip of deep night, label: December 1967. DC in ’73. Into this box
set wet wind—summer thundershower. Augusts in Nevada. Dry
bluster off sand mark ’76 ’77, ’78 through ’84. I’m a teenager at Rehobeth, up
at dawn after bonfires and beer. Into this box a handful of Atlantic salt air
misted by porpoise exhalation. 1985. Berkeley fog bubbles the specimen label.
Wedding day, August 19, 1992. Forest fires scorch Volcano. A sooty sample.
Two years later we sail San Francisco Bay in a gale, scoop an armful of pulsing Pacific wind off the jib for my collection. Let’s include Kay’s final breath in ’97—it fell out as a sputter— and the bilious tempest of my brother who hollers stay away!
Label also whispered breeze of reconciliation.
Add delight’s gusts, desire’s zephyr, siroccos of ceaseless seeking. Doldrums. Then,
tickles of air on undersides of poppy petals. This a log of landscape felt as it touches other things. Everything a breath. All atmosphere cooled and warmed in layers.


The first month Alexa Mergen lived in Yucca Valley she learned how to respect rattlesnakes and scorpions and how to recognize a dust devil. She grew up in Washington, DC, making visits to family in the Great Basin and Mojave. She now lives in Sacramento. In addition to poetry, Alexa writes fiction and essays. Her favorite places are windy ones–mountaintops, deserts, and seashores.

Alexa Mergen

Child of the Wandering Sea

Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!

                        –Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Chambered Nautilus

 

At the corner of Alta and Sunflower street signs hum
like conch shells in sagey wind. The last water receded
an eon ago: runs deep beneath your feet if at all.

The sound sings your first trip west, whipping over desert
in a silver bus. Shells along shelves in shops at Fisherman’s Wharf.
You held pink rims to your ear understanding then the nautilus

your teacher silenced without definition. Didn’t he know
a poem’s tones seep through pages when pressure builds?
You returned after seafaring to the desert wind,

wind like the ocean’s. The shacks are
sinking beam by board into brown sand:
a flag pole clanks in a wide lot:
air pulls forth what was forgotten.


Alexa Mergen lived for two years in the high desert town of Yucca Valley where she walked dirt roads, admired the Milky Way, and listened to wind. She grew up in Washington, DC, making frequent visits to family in Nevada and Utah. Alexa studied Literature and Writing at George Washington University, UC Berkeley, and UC Irvine. Her poems and essays appear in numerous publications. She currently lives in Sacramento where she leads workshops in poetry and memorizing poems, and works as a freelance editor.