Cynthia Manick

Autopsy of the Poetic “I”
		after Toi Dericotte

i’m not sorry that “I” 
serves as a shield. Pledges no allegiance 
to any flag, father or American 
version of pretty. Sometimes when 

the past comes with its sharpness—
we sit scared. Think about brown 
liquor, mumbled songs, our dreams 
about teeth. But then the “I” emerges
like an alpha helix or bent reed. 

i am not the “I” in my poems. 
i don’t know how to love my fears 
or talk with a badger in my throat.

Some think the body is a bless-
ed thing so maybe every “I” rests 
like nesting dolls, curled in parts—
that right toe that’s bigger than the left, 
the left breast shifting in every bra.

Or maybe the “I” is the favored 
part of the Gemini and loves to wear 
black. It wants to know how 
the sausage is made— where the
slaughters take place, and how it 
swims to the page for swallowing. 


Litany for My Fears and Questions 
                           after Audre Lorde

For those of us getting used to writing poems—
for the dead
for rainbows without a streak of black
for gerbera daisies that wilt quickly 
for silence so quiet
you tilt like earths’ axis
like that day in September
when the phones rang and rang
and you learned that charred wood 
is stronger than most barks
Does love taste like sweetgrass?
Can I be mad as love as sweetgrass?
Does this jump in the blood mean
I’m having a heart attack. . . a heart 
break . . . or a heart’s fury between dawns?
Can a mouth be starved for the sun?
How many fibroids is too many?
Can I take 3 Aleve’s instead of 2? 
For those of us expected to beautify-
what's hemmed in
the latest numbers in our zip codes
questions on god … particles
. .  . boredom . . . conversations with 
the town crier . . . I mean our mothers
glued to the phone to relay 
names of the sick 
they fall like em dashes or brittle teeth
When will scientists name this new emotion?
Is it wrong to want a storm named after you?
Can a 3am phone call be good news – 
news so jubilant that our lungs expound 
6 liters of air?
Let this be the last time we mourn 
or dream of beasts 
or a beach full of a 100 brown turtles
retracted in their shells.


Cynthia Manick is the author of Blue Hallelujahs (Black Lawrence Press, 2016) and editor of Soul Sister Revue: A Poetry Compilation (Jamii Publishing, 2019) and The Future of Black: Afrofuturism, Black Comics, & Superhero Poetry (Blair Publishing, 2021). Manick is the founder of Soul Sister Revue and resides in Brooklyn, NY.