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 the GENDER issue / POETRY


by Candice Merritt



She ached for a body of respite:

instead her flesh was crowded, by

crusted milk cracked at tips,

bottom pots, burned before

dusk, boy baby babbling for

breasts, prepubescent bottles

blackened and swole blue.


But boy baby needed  peace

and of her, like a pinioned cog in a 

just-on-time clock, she

obeyed the hunger.


He fed from her hand, settling into

slumber, cradling plastic. Stowed

into a four-sided drawer,  duty

kept her close.    Just in case, or

there’ll be trouble.


Now, in her cradle, she crawled

upon the couch, climbing one knee after

foot. To chest, sunken, she sauntered—

inhaling drecks, dwelling in dermis.


Behind the skin, she was few things:

disembodied arms, pale and thin, hanging

mauve bedsheets, half a translucent hand,

folding velvets, edges to ridge, stiff fingers

rosewooded knuckles, furrowing into 

abysmal creases, tucked and stacked, 

pressed plaited, encased…


until, she became the smallest 

slits, diffuse with the empty ebony

between braided hair  


the soot

lines interspersed in coarse nooses—







Before she slipped too far, baby began

cackling at the air above, where is that

warm-blooded body?   Well,


digging a railroad underneath 

her ribs, when Mother 

returned, baby finished 

snaking over, her neck collected the clot


from her little box.  Later, she’d recall

that emergent moment:

gazing inside that

narrow, tenebrous fold


trancing  god her self

into that pure black

hole, willing god

her self to merging in

breath full abyss, being

god her self always, and again,

one more, fading  final

deserting, desiring


Golden Marble

Candice J. Merritt is a black queer feminist with roots in St. Louis, MO and Atlanta, GA. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in African American Studies at Northwestern University with a focus on black feminist theory, motherhood, and family in black women's literature. She seeks to weave theory, memoir, poetry, and creative non-fiction in her writing, research, and teaching. 

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