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The Undertaker’s Daughter

The Undertaker’s Daughter

TOI DERRICOTTE
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hjsx9
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  • Book Info
    The Undertaker’s Daughter
    Book Description:

    "Poems that stick with you like a song that won't stop repeating itself in your brain, poems whose cadences burrow into your bloodstream, orchestrating your breathing long before their sense attaches its hooks to your heart."-Washington PostonCaptivity

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7816-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. PART I. The Undertaker’s Daughter

    • I am not afraid to be memoir
      (pp. 3-3)

      Before the amphetamine of accomplishment; when there was only a physical body and a mind circulating through it like blood, with hardly a hovering angel, chunky, spirited, too big for her britches, on the two-wheeler before the grown-ups rose, driving the neighbors crazy on Sunday morning when the neighborhood should be quiet, first tendency to test, legs and eyes, standing up on the seat with one leg out behind her, one or two hands on the handlebars, like a circus lady riding bareback, back to loneliness, back back before angels separated and became the mad god.

      I want to go...

    • Burial sites
      (pp. 4-21)

      The first was a bassinet. I don’t remember what it was made of; I think it was one of those big white wicker baskets with wheels. When I couldn’t sleep at night, my father would drag it into the kitchen. It was winter. He’d light the gas oven. I remember the room’s stuffiness, the acrid bite of cold and fumes.

      My father didn’t like crying. He said I was doing it to get attention. He didn’t like my mother teaching me that I could cry and get attention. Nothing was wrong with me, and, even if I was hungry, it...

    • The undertaker’s daughter
      (pp. 22-23)
    • Sunday afternoons at Claire Carlyle’s
      (pp. 24-25)
    • For my unnamed brother (1943–1943)
      (pp. 26-28)
    • Dolls
      (pp. 29-39)

      Take care of your little mother, my aunt told me shortly before she died. My little five-foot-four-inch mother, whose clothes I outgrew when I was ten, already proud of my big bones—(Nothing could overpower me if I was made of my father’s bones). My mother was astounded—I should put bricks on your head& she kept dressing me in pinafores & ruffled socks.Toi, she called me, as if I was supposed to stay small.

      Sometimes it seemed I couldn’t have come out of her, that something was wrong. When I stood behind her I felt ungainly, like something that...

    • Mistrust of the beloved
      (pp. 40-40)

      I must explain to you what I must explain to myself: that there, where love, desire and want spring from the most natural source, there, in that spot, in that moment, is the scalding fire; and, instead, springs to life the unwanted and beaten girl, her whole soul face and body shiny with burn scar, inflexible, taut and hard, immersed anew in the conflagration; for, as long as the route turns to that inward burning, it cannot take her out again into that place where her father proved he did not love.

      The heart of one so riddled must keep...

  2. PART II. A Memory of the Future

  3. PART III. The Undertaking

    • The exigencies of form
      (pp. 85-85)

      It is not the corpse, it is not the artifact, it is the soft thing with feathers. It is hope, it is what is said at the tenderest point; it is covered up with language and syntax, it is metered and measured, it has on its finest dress; it may look like a king going out on a fine horse, or a diplomat in a car with black windows; it may cover itself and hide, but it is reaching, it is alive....

    • The undertaking
      (pp. 86-92)

      My brother Jay, my half-brother, eighteen years younger than I am, brings our father’s ashes when he visits me in Pittsburgh. They have been on a shelf in his basement for twenty years, wrapped in the kind of plain brown wrapper universally understood to be hiding something “dirty.” We slash open the paper to uncover a drawer-shaped plastic box. Jay pulls a string and the top pops off as easily as the lid on a box of oatmeal and reveals, too quickly, the chalky issue, the pebbles of our father.

      We have walked to the neighborhood golf course—my father...