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 her skin, all the way down to the transparent genes confessing.
Toi Derricotte - 1941-
How much like angels are these tall gladiolas in a vase on my coffee table, as if in a bunch whispering. How slender and artless, how scandalously alive, each with its own humors and pulse. Each weight- bearing stem is the stem of a thought through which aspires the blood-metal of stars. Each heart is a gift for the king. When I was a child, my mother and aunts would sit in the kitchen gossiping. One would tip her head toward me, “Little Ears,” she’d warn, and the whole room went silent. Now, before sunrise, what secrets I am told!—being quieter than blossoms and near invisible.