Toi Derricotte

(April 12, 1941 / Hamtramck, Michigan)

The Weakness


That time my grandmother dragged me
through the perfume aisles at Saks, she held me up
by my arm, hissing, "Stand up,"
through clenched teeth, her eyes
bright as a dog's
cornered in the light.
She said it over and over,
as if she were Jesus,
and I were dead.She had been
solid as a tree,
a fur around her neck, a
light-skinned matron whose car was parked, who walked
on swirling
marble and passed through
brass openings--in 1945.
There was not even a black
elevator operator at Saks.
The saleswoman had brought velvet
leggings to lace me in, and cooed,
as if in service of all grandmothers.
My grandmother had smiled, but not
hungrily, not like my mother
who hated them, but wanted to please,
and they had smiled back, as if
they were wearing wooden collars.
When my legs gave out, my grandmother
dragged me up and held me like God
holds saints by the
roots of the hair.I begged her
to believe I couldn't help it.Stumbling,
her face white
with sweat, she pushed me through the crowd, rushing
away from those eyes
that saw through
her clothes, under
herskin, all the way down
to the transparent
genes confessing.

Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003

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Comments about this poem (The Weakness by Toi Derricotte )

  • Gold Star - 10,359 Points Kim Barney (1/18/2015 7:02:00 PM)

    This poem reminds me, not of my grandmother, but of another lady in my small town when I was a child.
    Well written, and congratulations for having it selected as poem of the day for January 18 for the third time now! (Report) Reply

  • Silver Star - 3,460 Points Douglas Scotney (1/18/2015 5:50:00 PM)

    thoughts about values (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 37,965 Points Aftab Alam Khursheed (1/18/2015 1:35:00 AM)

    herskin, all the way down, to the transparent, genes confessing. nice (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 10,508 Points * Sunprincess * (1/18/2014 5:04:00 PM)

    ............fond memories of a grandmother...nice... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 182 Points Karen Sinclair (1/18/2014 10:07:00 AM)

    this is amazing! seriously perceptive it has everything imagination of a child wrapped in an adult understanding, it shows depth pain and most emotions i could see so clearly i loved its raw honesty a beautiful piece, OUTSTANDING i love it! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie G.r. Melvin (1/19/2012 8:35:00 AM)

    Very nice (I liked yr Market piece, too)
    I just joined this wordy club, and to be honest, yours seems a rarer quality
    Thanx and Keep on (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Phyllis T. Halle (1/18/2012 7:21:00 PM)

    Dear Toi:
    More than I can tell you, I understand your poetry.
    I have expended a great deal of emotion and energy in an effort to forgive and to remember without resentment. I have succeeded in my effort and pray you have too!

    I love your sweet face
    I love your poem, The Weakness
    I love your name!
    From your new friend, Phyllis T. Halle (Report) Reply

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