23 November 2009

Toi Derricotte

[from Toi Derricotte's The Empress of the Death House, Lotus, 1991]

The Feeding

My grandmother
haunted the halls
above Webster's Funeral
Home like a red-
gowned ghost. Til dawn
I'd see her spectral
form — henna-hair
blown back,
green eyes:

She was proud.
Like God,
I swore I'd love her.
At night we whispered
how we hated mother
and wished that I could
live with her.

In the morning while she slept,
I'd pluck
costume diamonds
form a heart-shaped chest,
try her tortoise combs
and hairpins in my hair.
She'd wake
and take me to her bed.

Maroon-quilted, eider-downed,
I drowned.
Rocking on her wasted breast,
I'd hear her tell me
how she nursed my father
til he was old enough to ask.

Then, she'd draw me
to her — ask me
if she still had milk.
Yes. I said, yes.
Feeding on the sapless
even now
the taste of emptiness
weights my mouth.

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