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About this poet

Constance Merritt was born in 1966 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and studied at the Arkansas School for the Blind. She received a BA and MA from the University of Utah and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

She is the author of the poetry collections Blind Girl Grunt: The Selected Blues Lyrics and Other Poems (Headmistress Press, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry; Two Rooms (Louisiana State University Press, 2009); Blessings and Inclemencies (Louisiana State University Press, 2007); and A Protocol for Touch (University of North Texas Press, 2000), winner of the Vassar Miller Prize.

The poet Jillian Weise writes, “Constance Merritt shows incredible range—erotic poems to a wayward lover; blues lyrics so rhythmic I can nearly hear the guitar; and devotional poems that offer ‘this, you know, is love, is all, the end.’”

Merritt served as the writer-in-residence at Sweet Briar College from 2003 to 2005. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky.


Bibliography

Blind Girl Grunt: The Selected Blues Lyrics and Other Poems (Headmistress Press, 2017)
Two Rooms (Louisiana State University Press, 2009)
Blessings and Inclemencies (Louisiana State University Press, 2007)
A Protocol for Touch (University of North Texas Press, 2000)

A Study in Perspective

I.
Looking at you was the hardest thing.

Taking off my clothes
While you stayed dressed,

II.
Nothing.

III.
My body a knife, my shoulder
Its blade, I cut a path before me.

Or sometimes I’m an apprentice ghost
Unsure in the art of haunting;

No one sees me as I pass.

IV.
No one sees me as I pass
Though someone is always looking,
Translating texts of skin and eyes
As: our lives are whole without her. 

V.
The intention of the taker doesn’t matter;
Shame lies only in not being had,
Pain in too much having.

VI.
If you weren’t older by twenty years,
Superior in race, middle-class
By marriage and sighted,
You couldn’t whisper strip
And then refuse to do the same.

We get away with what we can,
And this poet gives what she gives.

VII.
Historically, it was a woman’s fate, a slave’s:
Submission to a gaze s/he can’t return.

VIII.
I am not you; that’s you and not me.
From a distance the boundaries stay clear,
And fear lies coiled and sleeping in its place.

IX.
Up close, I look at you, give you
My body without its mask of blindness,
Allow you to see me, my eyes
As they work at seeing you.

And not because, as I have said,
I loved you more, or am most good,

Just well-rehearsed as vulnerable. 



From A Protocol for Touch (University of North Texas Press, 2000). Copyright © 2000 by Constance Merritt. Used with the permission of the author.

From A Protocol for Touch (University of North Texas Press, 2000). Copyright © 2000 by Constance Merritt. Used with the permission of the author.

Constance Merritt

Constance Merritt

Constance Merritt is the author of Blind Girl Grunt: The Selected Blues Lyrics and Other Poems (Headmistress Press, 2017). She lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

by this poet

poem

All Hallows Eve, Sweet Briar College, 2003

I came as a ghost to the party,
no costume required, I only had to wear
the brilliant skin, the ruinous eyes,
the body poised in transit, unwriting
the myth of sex. I came as a ghost
to the party, though we pretended