Jennifer Martelli – Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination

Poetry by Jennifer Martelli featured in the latest issue of the About Place Journal. Temperature-dependent sex determination does exist, and Jennifer shows us how croc mom’s make sure that girls will be chosen.

Temperature-dependent Sex Determination

after Leonora Carrington’s “How Doth the Little Crocodile”

The day the waters rose from the Nile River bed, a crocodile

carried her still-translucent baby girls on her back, floated through the X-

walk. She’d been careful to lay her moon green eggs in cooler mud. She

wanted girls. She wanted them to have vertical cat-eye

pupils. She called her nest of crocodile eggs her crèche

and heard her babies call out from inside the shells.


The snout of a crocodile is a capital letter V and

their language can be the language of a bird if hungry, of a snake

if afraid. If in love or in distress, a deep cough from the groin. Her man-

croc’s cry was infrasonic, so deep she felt it on her white belly scales.


Too subtle, even for me. But this all sounds like my myth of the afterlife,

like a warm wet dream during the cold,


cold mating season when I’d have to bite and be bitten, and could

finally descend back down to the peaceful muddy river bank.