Toi Derricotte

(April 12, 1941 / Hamtramck, Michigan)

Family Secrets


They told my cousin Rowena not to marry
Calvin―she was too young, just eighteen,
& he was too dark, too too dark, as if he
had been washed in what we wanted
to wipe off our hands. Besides, he didn't come
from a good family. He said he was going
to be a lawyer, but we didn't quite believe.
The night they eloped to the Gotham Hotel,
the whole house whispered―as if we were ashamed
to tell it to ourselves. My aunt and uncle
rushed down to the Gotham to plead―
we couldn't imagine his hands on her!
Families are conceived in many ways.
The night my cousin Calvin lay
down on her, that idol with its gold skin
broke, & many of the gods we loved
in secret were freed.

—from Tender 1997

Submitted: Monday, December 19, 2011

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Comments about this poem (Family Secrets by Toi Derricotte )

  • Gold Star - 6,189 Points Jayatissa K. Liyanage (1/18/2015 5:44:00 AM)

    A real life experience, looks like. Seems that human feelings on matters close to heart erupt somewhat similarly, universally, irrespective of color, creed or caste where ever people live. Thanks for sharing. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 13,873 Points * Sunprincess * (5/30/2014 4:42:00 PM)

    .......hmm... for the me the magic word in this poem is cousin.....were calvin and rowena cousins? ? ? .......i know someone who married their cousin....to me it seems like a little to much to marry a relative... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points David Slater (1/18/2014 6:56:00 PM)

    It seems amazing to me that such prejudice could exist in a people who have suffered so much from prejudice. (Report) Reply

  • Silver Star - 3,639 Points Dave Walker (12/19/2011 4:14:00 AM)

    Like it. Enjoyed reading it. A great poem.
    May i invite you to read my new poem called,
    War Of Goodwill. (Report) Reply

Read all 4 comments »

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