Toi Derricotte: A Woman Writer Aging

Derricotte reflects on the language of a writer's body @ TriQuarterly. What’s it like? If you’re not a woman writer aging, I can’t believe you’d be interested. Why would you want to read about difficulties that you think you’ll never have? Neck pain. Knee pain. Hip pain. I myself have not been able to admit it until today, when, at the doctor’s office, she looks at the MRI of my neck and shakes her head in disbelief. “I would never have thought seeing you sit here that it was this bad. See these dark spots? There is absolutely no room for the spinal cord. It rubs against the bones every time you move.”

What can you do? There’s still no cure for what stiffens the bones of the pharaohs.

All my life I learned to live with pain, to mine it. I produced six books holding on until it’s ripe, ready to burst, then putting a faucet on it, a carefully controlled faucet called poetry. But my last book used it up, the last held drop.
I could have surgery, but she assumes, correctly, that I’m not ready for that. However, for the knee there is something you can do. Something you can put over it and strap to your thigh and foreleg. What does it feel like, the nurse asks. “Like an alligator strapped to my leg with my knee in its mouth.” Well, that must be the wrong brace, she says. Let me look at those x-rays again.

Image: Kyoko Hamada at 

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