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  • Joy is an act of resistance, and: Special ears, and: Another poem of a small grieving for my fish Telly, and: On the reasons I loved Telly the fish
  • Toi Dericotte (bio)

Joy is an act of resistance

                    Why would a black woman                                need a fish                  to love? Why did she need a

                    flash of red, living, in thecorner of her eye? As if she could love nothing                    up close, but had to step

                        away from it, come                    back to drop a few seeds                          & let it grab

                    on to her, as if it caught                                          her                  on some hook that couldn't

                hurt. Why did she need a fish                            to write of, a red              thorn or, among the thorns, that

        flower? What does her love have to do                  with five hundred years of            sorrow, then joy coming up like a

                            small breath, a            bubble? What does it have to do                  with the graveyards of the

                Atlantic, in her mother's                                        heart? [End Page 22]

Special ears

I liked him for his tailfin, which was long like a mermaid's &flowed like a silver blueruffle in the water,larger than you'd expect a little fish's tail to be—

                  generous, excessive, a bit astonishing, like a girl with too                  much hair!

Sometimes he would rise like a submarine, straight up, as if hewould nip my finger, get out of my water, his mouth would openlike a little scoop of blackness & let out one bubble, like a smokering of my father's, a message from the underworld.

Another poem of a small grieving for my fish Telly

Perhaps I should forgiveTelly for dying in my care, Just afish, someone said, Just

get another! Lucille saidour power becomesgreater when we lose the flesh; so,

when I poured Telly outof his painted casket (a little woodenegg) out over the rail of the [End Page 23]

yellow bridge into the allbecoming, was it a miraclethat he had lived, was it a miracle?

Once, when I prayed for a sign,

God opened the closedvault of the sky, the sun popped out& shone directly in my face, & hail, yes,

hail started falling (in July!). I wasafraid to believe in love. God,don't waste your miracles on me. &

the sun went back, like a faceretreating. Telly, you are bodiless,you are with my mother

& father. Say it wasn't myfault you suffered, with your littleworking gills, say you forgive me.

On the reasons I loved Telly the fish

Why would I say I was"pathetic," when talking about mylife, why would I think of it as"little," my "little" life, I said,as if, looking backat what kept me alive,what I constructed to make my own [End Page 24] success, to regard that withtenderness &understanding—as something evensweet &marvelous—wasinsane. Then maybe I began tolove Telly—really nothing in thegrand scheme of things—the way that lady, when I told her thatI paid 100 dollars a month for someone to come in &feed Telly when I was away, said—"but, Toi, how muchdid Telly cost? $1.98? Well then why not justflush him every time & get another?"Whatever I saidto myself, whateverI felt & did, thatkind of care wassilly,nice, but, well, you know,crazy, the way, when you grow up &understand the greatthings, a fish's life isnothing, as if (& probably they can'tthink or feel) there are much moreimportant things todo to think about tolove & dedicate ourselvesto: there aredoctors, greatpoets, there isfine furniture, clothes, children, truelove, god, forgod's sake, there is everything toremember, everything to beworried & concerned about, as if I couldfind it if I just keptooking, something really [End Page 25] real out there always just outside of what I couldtake in. & this was how Istayed alive.

         My aunt took me toher job from the time I was about3. I'd go down to thebasement where she washead of...


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