One recovering, with scars down her back where her spine was straightened, scars on both hips, as if her flesh has been laced back like flaps or the wings of a butterfly— a woman rubs her with oils, back and shoulders, as if to rub away some invisible iron cape. When I started to feel myself again inside of my body, it was on and off, like flashes of black light. I had no idea where I went between, maybe up looking down through a small, narrow window: my body with its huge legs like the freakish legs of some huge bug, my swimming arms. Once, with the therapist, I felt something from me reaching, a tendril of hope, and I remember how, when my father beat me, when I’d be lying on the floor, begging, it was as if a fragile tendril reached out of my heart, that he might see: I was his daughter, his flesh, feeling. I looked up at my therapist and, for the first time since childhood, felt that trembling even more dangerous than fear.
Toi Derricotte has published three collections of poems, Natural Birth, The Empress of the Death House, and Captivity, which is in its fourth printing. She is an associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.