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Root Work Journal - Navigating the Ocean - Volume 1, Issue 2


 Joshua Merchant




Native of East Oakland. Black. Queer. Has had the privilege to be published as a finalist for the June Jordan Poetry Prize anthology ‘In These Streets’ as well as the literary journal Eleven Eleven.

a lot of us are in need. a lot of us are sick and dont know it or don't want to know. a lot of us want to help ourselves and each other but don't know how to.



a boy walks home alone at night

carrying a 12 pack of water.

in the south, at this hour 

he is one of the few walking. 

and cars drive by. one of them honks

who’s to say it’s not at him.


a girl drives home alone at night.

blunt in hand. half a liter of water

on the passenger side. who’s

to say what's healthier for her - 

sedation or hydration. and the boys

wait at the bus stop. who’s to say

the wheels on her car aren’t records

she refuses to scratch.


a man is home alone at night

a bottle of hawain punch 

in the fridge. he’s praying 

to god. who’s to say he isn’t

one on his knees in remembrance

of his name. his tears aren’t red

nor sweet and the water 

from the tap is questionable.


a woman is home at night.

can only swallow if thickener 

is placed in her water. who’s 

to say she should still be here

swallowing what feels like syrup

in a crowded hall of wheel chairs

and dateline tv. a man is telling


a boy that his views on water

are dated. that the government 

puts things we don’t want into 

things we need. the boy tells

the man the government can 

also make your water brown 

and charge you for the bill.


the boy then turns to the girl

asking to hit the blunt. the

girl replies why are we always 

so thirsty. the boy says

you right. lemme get a swig.

she says that’s not for you

and drives away to visit 

her mother. the woman


who’s raising her hand 

to grab her cup is being 

told to slow down with 

the liquor cuz it’s not 

going anywhere. noone 

wants to say that she might.


until a girl walks in 

with half a liter  water 

and says here ma. drink 

this instead.


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