The author of several books of poetry, Toi Derricotte is cofounder of Cave Canem, a national poetry organization committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African American poets... More >
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What the hell am I doing
hugging a white man in an apron?
I said it to myself—but out loud! —so that
he pushed me away slightly: What did you say?
This was the first white man I had dated—
though I was sixty!
It wasn't only that I was holding
a body close for the first time
in years; not only
that he was white.
Our mothers' fears and angers—
heirlooms of slavery—
had hardened my heart.
Perhaps it was the apron. I had never imagined
a white man (not a chef)
come down to that order. Perhaps
the way he met me, beaming,
confounded my expectations
and undid me.
How lovely his body
as he bends to the wise tomatoes.
What does black
and white have to do with it,
our love that's lasted ten years?
Each act of tenderness
amends the violence of history.
About this poem:
"I started writing the poem as an exercise when I read about a Valentine contest for the best love story in a weekly newspaper in a small town I was visiting. Finishing it solved a puzzle I'd wondered about for ten years of why I did something so uncharacteristic of me."