Poems by Joshua Merchant

Outside

sounds like the family
of cardinals- or the grief
of lightening we survive
together and still mundane- 
the walks from home. the movies. 
grocery store or dinner table. 
the vastness of it all. the field 
of horses behind my apartment
that bring me to a pause. 

can’t see the face but I know
something is exhaling when
the grass bends. I stopped being
flexible years ago. my body was 
trying to warn me- the cracking 
joints. the whistling through the 
archeology of my wisdom teeth; 
never removed them. they no longer 
bring me pain. there’s a new tooth

in this new environment that 
aches sometimes. there was
a new boo and a new bae before 
my mother became the new ellipses. 
I walk away from unwanted 
conversations now. had a favorite 
bar and they changed the dress code 
after it reopened. a man flirted 
just to embarrass me, and my, it’s
the new tongue from the spices 
I learned to digest for me. 

I’d rather the hand knotted 
around my throat, though, 
that would’ve required admitting
he wanted me there. just not like this. 
whatever this meant to him. I wanted
to leave but not the way I was going to. 

the way my mother did. I don’t go to that
bar anymore- I fall face forward. learned to 
pull chamomile from my ears: the lesions 
on my face have a place to rest. the rest 
of the residue on my fingertips are just 
cinnamon and wax. I lick the 
reminders until I forget the taste. 

January 23, 2019

we lost each other
a lot. I returned 
afraid she’d catch
the whiff of fruit
flies dipped in the keloids 
reopening from my abdomen 
as I entered the care center- 
a place where the sweet 
and decadent go too rest. She 
didn’t have to say much, as if 
a stroke would keep her from 
speaking. there’s a groove

more prominent than the fingers 
that press mine when I rub my belly.
my taste comes from Her. the neo-

soul slides through her scalp and into 
my headphones. I haven’t stepped 
foot in a church since I burned out 
loud but I still know what a praise 
dance is. my brother and I 
were trying to preserve 

her laughter. She was fighting 
through the pain of the bloated 
and cracked, dragged through 
cotton and wood. I sung one 
of her favorite throwbacks. 
you see, that picture of us 
smiling was us squaring up. 

Joshua Merchant (they / them, he / him) is a Black Queer native of East Oakland, CA exploring what it means to be human as an intersectional being. What they’ve been exploring as of late has been in the realm of loving and what it means while processing trauma. They feel as though as a people, especially those of us more marginalized than others, it has become too common to deny access to our true source of power as a means of feeling powerful. A collective trauma response if you will. However, they’ve come to recognize with harsh lessons and divine grace that without showing up for ourselves and each other, everything else is null and void. Innately, everything Merchant writes is a love letter to their people. Because of this, they’ve had the honor to witness their work being held and understood in literary journals such as 580Split, Eleven Eleven, and The Rootwork Journal.


Published by Gender Queer Literature

Gender Queer Literature is a free online and living resource for contemporary genderqueer perspectives. SUBMISSIONS: Look to Duotrope for details. https://duotrope.com/duosuma/submit/gender-queer-literature-THzrz

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