Telly by Toi Derricotte

by Brian Honigman    /  August 19, 2009  / No comments

photo collage by Brian Weller

Telly is, in a way, the first love poem I ever wrote. Ever since I was a child, my writing was a place I talked to myself about things I couldn’t talk about to my parents and friends. I wrote in secret. I worked out my ‘dark’ side in my writing.

For years, as my writing became more public, I brought that dark side, that ‘secret’ life, into my public writing. I wrote about my anger, my abuse, my abandonment. I thought I would never be able to access poems that held a combination of love and sadness. The Telly poems were more difficult to read in public than any of my other poems. What would people think of a poet who wrote a love poem about a fish? The tenderest, shyest, most hidden part of the heart is the most vulnerable.

Because I was good to Telly in his life,
because I taught him Alice Neel,
and feed him frozen mealworms,
(until I found out he’d
lose his bright red tail color
for that pleasure),
because I paid 100 dollars
for a pet sitter to come
when I was away on trips (never liking those
who said their beta did just fine
sitting on the edge of their office desk
over the long weekend-how would you
like it not to eat for three
days, I wanted to ask), for choosing
carefully among the pet
sitters, interviewing, for looking for one who took a fish
seriously and
told beta stories about how smart they
are, coming up
to say hi in the morning, checking you
out with a certain calm or anxious
look in the eye, because
I believed
in one fish’s
brain and life and skills, because
I put him in a painted wooden…

Click here to download full poem.

Introduction by Toi Derricotte: Grief Poetry by Yona Harvey
To Describe My Body Walking
One Impression / After / Another
Black Winged Stilt

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