Derrick Austin (Black, b. 1989)
Crashing the Fête Galante, from the series Queer Beatitudes, 2018
Mixed media on wood panel, with house music
The sky’s always pink in the latter days of the empire. Vanessa and Rubi point their kids toward water birds breaking funny poses to fly. From Bruno’s hammock follow the curve up the berry-blotted hill where Lauren and the artist share a thermos of tea. Where Suzi rests, decked out like Moira Rose, the brushwork loosens. Cody’s in the cut eating apples with Alysia. Marcelo blurs down the hill toward bulrushes on a lake. “Our joy breaks the border between canvas and frame,” Derrick says. “It felt so rare to be ordinary. Marcelo bruising his toe. Our scrambling for ice in the sun.”
Last Love Song for Drake
Sometimes the pain’s so bad getting tattooed
one laughs, tastes auburn fire. What did you see,
Sade inked into your side? What name flew
from you? Would you consider that tattoo?
Play Love Deluxe. Knock, knock. Drake, please, make me
wet with all your tears. I can’t stand to see
that sadness wasted. So big, bad, and blue,
where do you store rage? Regret that tattoo?
If my heart is a landscape, there are trees
where grief and I can hide, dark as the sea.
Aubrey, you ain’t shit. I ain’t shit too.
Ooh, my song’s playing: ...wear it like a tattoo.
So much of who we are we cannot see.
No songs tonight. Hush, hush. Lick my tattoo.
Derrick Austin is the author of Trouble the Water (BOA Editions). A Cave Canem fellow, his work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Image: A Journal of Arts and Religion, New England Review, The Nation and Tin House. He was a finalist for the 2017 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He is a 2019-2021 Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University.