In Knowledge of Young Boys
i knew you before you had a mother, when you were newtlike, swimming, a horrible brain in water. i knew you when your connections belonged only to yourself, when you had no history to hook on to, barnacle, when you had no sustenance of metal when you had no boat to travel when you stayed in the same place, treading the question; i knew you when you were all eyes and a cocktail, blank as the sky of a mind, a root, neither ground nor placental; not yet red with the cut nor astonished by pain, one terrible eye open in the center of your head to night, turning, and the stars blinked like a cat. we swam in the last trickle of champagne before we knew breastmilk—we shared the night of the closet, the parasitic closing on our thumbprint, we were smudged in a yellow book. son, we were oak without mouth, uncut, we were brave before memory.
From Poems from the Women's Movement, Honor Moore, ed., Library of America. Copyright © 2009. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.
The author of several books of poetry, Toi Derricotte is cofounder of Cave Canem, a national poetry organization committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African American poets. She served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2012 to 2017.
Date Published: 2009-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/knowledge-young-boys