Skip to main content
By Toi Derricotte

my dad's going to give me a self
i've made an altar called
The Altar for Healing the Father & Child,
& asked him what i could do
for him so he would
do nice for me. he said i should stop
saying bad things about him &, since
i've said just about everything bad
i can think of &, since . . . well,
no, i change my
mind, i can't promise
him that. but even healing is
negotiable, so, if he's in
heaven (or trying
to get in), it wouldn't hurt
to be in touch. the first thing i want is to be able to
enjoy the little things again—for example, to stop peeling
down the list of things i
have to do &
enjoy this poem, enjoy how, last night, scouring
the cupboards, i found a
can of sardines that
must be five
years old &, since i was home after a long
trip &, since it was 1 a.m. & i hadn't eaten
dinner &, since there was no other
protein in the house,
i cranked it open & remembered that
my dad loved
sardines—right before bed—with
onions & mustard. i can't get into
my dad's old heart, but i remember that look
on his face when he would
load mustard on a saltine cracker, lay a little
fish on top, & tip it with a juicy slice
of onion. then he'd look up from his soiled
fingers with one eyebrow
raised, a rakish
grin that said—all
for me!—as if he was
getting away
with murder.

Toi Derricotte, "My dad & sardines" from The Undertaker’s Daughter. Copyright © 2014 by Toi Derricotte.  Reprinted by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: The Undertaker's Daughter (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014)

  • Activities
  • Relationships

Poet Bio

Toi Derricotte
Born in Michigan, Toi Derricotte is the co-founder of the African-American writers retreat, Cave Canem, and Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh. A two-time poetry fellowship recipient from the National Endowment for the Arts, her literary memoir, The Black Notebooks, won the 1998 Annisfield-Wolf Book Award for Nonfiction. See More By This Poet

More By This Poet

More Poems about Activities

Browse poems about Activities

More Poems about Relationships

Browse poems about Relationships Get a random poem