bloody kingdoms rest

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Before Making Love
Toi Derricotte

I move my hands over your face,
the cheek bones, broadly spaced,
the wide thick nostrils of the African,
the forehead whose bones push
forward at both sides as if the horns
of new fallen angels lie just under,
the chin that juts forward with pride.
I think of the delicate skull of the Taung child—
earliest of human beings
emerged from darkness—whose geometry
brings word of a small town of dignity
that all the bloody kingdoms rest on.

ugly mouth

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Invisible Dreams
Toi Derricotte

La poesie vit d’insomnie perpetuelle
—René Char

There’s a sickness in me. During
the night I wake up & it’s brought
a stain into my mouth, as if
an ocean has risen & left back
a stink on the rocks of my teeth.
I stink. My mouth is ugly, human
stink. A color like rust
is in me. I can’t get rid of it.
It rises after I
brush my teeth, a taste
like iron. In the
night, left like a dream,
a caustic light
washing over the insides of me.
*
What to do with my arms? They
coil out of my body
like snakes.
They branch & spit.
I want to shake myself
until they fall like withered
roots; until
they bend the right way—
until I fit in them,
or they in me.
I have to lay them down as
carefully as an old wedding dress,
I have to fold them
like the arms of someone dead.
The house is quiet; all
night I struggle. All
because of my arms,
which have no peace!
*
I’m a martyr, a girl who’s been dead
two thousand years. I turn
on my left side, like one comfortable
after a long, hard death.
The angels look down
tenderly. “She’s sleeping,” they say
& pass me by. But
all night, I am passing
in & out of my body
on my naked feet.
*
I’m awake when I’m sleeping & I’m
sleeping when I’m awake, & no one
knows, not even me, for my eyes
are closed to myself.
I think I am thinking I see
a man beside me, & he thinks
in his sleep that I’m awake
writing. I hear a pen scratch
a paper. There is some idea
I think is clever: I want to
capture myself in a book.
*
I have to make a
place for my body in
my body. I’m like a
dog pawing a blanket
on the floor. I have to
turn & twist myself
like a rag until I
can smell myself in myself.
I’m sweating; the water is
pouring out of me
like silver. I put my head
in the crook of my arm
like a brilliant moon.
*
The bones of my left foot
are too heavy on the bones
of my right. They
lie still for a little while,
sleeping, but soon they
bruise each other like
angry twins. Then
the bones of my right foot
command the bones of my left
to climb down.
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