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Toi Derricotte: For my unnamed brother (1943-1943)

i was left out

i was chosen second & then left out

i was left

handed  i was left

to fend for myself   i 

was the second in

command  the second

in line   i came

without direction


i want the 

milk  i want my

first pick  i want

choice   & all its implications  there was a


residue of


between us  it chafed

when we rubbed our

chests together


                                     hello, brother, hello?

hello in there, brother, can you

hear me?  it’s a long

tunnel to the grave    speak

you were my

first god  i was rapt in your


                         (mother better

eat her vegetables, she better chew) choo


what’s bitter between us


                                              i want the

milk  i need it for my

teeth  they’re

soft  the gums

bleed  there’s the evidence

on my toothbrush  i got the

second draft  i need calcium

to make up  i

got a job

             & left

i don’t know where you’re



what do you

need?  what will make you

happy?  what do you

want?  the dead

do have mouths &

appetites  suck it

up   there’s plenty in the ice

box   more

where that came from


                                      if somebody

asked me what’s

next  i wouldn’t

know  i took my hands off

her like something

hot  or fragile   or in

pain  i was

aghast  at suffering how you can feed

& feed it

               & it’s never



                          there’s a separation

between us  a suppuration  there’s just the  

space of an idea  i don’t know what’s

missing  it’s a blind

spot  sometimes my left eye

focuses & it’s like looking at

both of us through a



                                    i’m telling you the

facts of life for

you haven’t been told

you’re in your late

fifties  you’re dis-

eased or disinterested  a

queer unable to

come out of the casket  OK


you live this

life  i’ll live the

next  she only has enough milk for

one baby  i’ll go 

around this

time  you come the

next  that time you’ll have a

better mother i

promise you that

Toi Derricotte was the recipient of the Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry.

Toi Derricotte, “For my unnamed brother [1943-1943]” from The Undertaker’s Daughter. Copyright © 2014 by Toi Derricotte.  Reprinted by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: The Undertaker’s Daughter (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014)

Toi Derricotte (African American Registry)

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This entry was posted on July 25, 2022 by in Opinion Leaders, Poetry and tagged , , , , .

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