Elegy for my Husband- Toi Derricotte

As a poet who often writes grief poetry, Toi Derricotte’s “Elegy for my Husband” struck a chord in me that I am still battling with. Some poets are able to craft elegies that give you glimpses into their grief but also manage to give you insight into who the person they are mourning was. They manage to convey just who and what they lost and this poem does that very well.  This poem is an amazing testament to those who work to build elegies and to mold their grief into words.




Bruce Derricotte, June 22, 1928 – June 21, 2011


What was there is no longer there:

Not the blood running its wires of flame through the whole length

Not the memories, the texts written in the language of the flat hills

No, not the memories, the porch swing and the father crying

The genteel and elegant aunt bleeding out on the highway

(Too black for the white ambulance to pick up)

Who had sent back lacquered plates from China

Who had given away her best ivory comb that one time she was angry

Not the muscles, the ones the white girls longed to touch

But must not (for your mother warned

You would be lynched in that all-white Ohio town you grew up in)

Not that same town where you were the only, the one good black boy

All that is gone

Not the muscles running, the baseball flying into your mitt

Not the hand that laid itself over my heart and saved me

Not the eyes that held the long gold tunnel I believed in

Not the restrained hand in love and in anger

Not the holding back

Not the taut holding







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