Toi Derricotte
Family Secrets

They told my cousin Rowena not to marry
Calvin―she was too young, just eighteen,
& he was too dark, too too dark, as if he
had been washed in what we wanted
to wipe off our hands. Besides, he didn’t come
from a good family. He said he was going
to be a lawyer, but we didn’t quite believe.
The night they eloped to the Gotham Hotel,
the whole house whispered―as if we were ashamed
to tell it to ourselves. My aunt and uncle
rushed down to the Gotham to plead―
we couldn’t imagine his hands on her!
Families are conceived in many ways.
The night my cousin Calvin lay
down on her, that idol with its gold skin
broke, & many of the gods we loved
in secret were freed.

—from Tender 1997

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