Not Forgotten

Toi Derricotte
  • Toi Derricotte
  • I love the way the black ants use their dead.
  • They carry them off like warriors on their steel
  • backs. They spend hours struggling, lifting,
  • dragging (it is not grisly as it would be for us,
  • to carry them back to be eaten),
  • so that every part will be of service. I think of
  • my husband at his father’s grave —
  • the grass had closed
  • over the headstone, and the name had disappeared. He took out
  • his pocket knife and cut the grass away, he swept it
  • with his handkerchief to make it clear. “Is this the way
  • we’ll be forgotten?” And he bent down over the grave and wept.

Toi Derricotte, “Not Forgotten” from Tender. Copyright © 1997. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Toi Derricotte was born in Hamtramck, Michigan, in 1941. As a child, she spent time at her grandparents’ funeral home in Detroit, an experience that shaped much of her early work. Derricotte was raised in a strict Catholic household in a working-class Detroit neighborhood. She attended Wayne State University, after which she received a master’s degree in English literature from New York University. Her fourth book of poetry, Tender (1997), won the 1998 Paterson Poetry Prize. Her first collection, The Empress of the Death House, was published by Lotus Press in 1978. Her poems often deal candidly with violence, humiliation, and the wounds of racism and sexuality, and with her personal history. She has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and many other awards. She is currently a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

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