Recent Work By Derrick Austin


It’s so good to get a chance to talk to you about your first book of poems, Trouble the Water. So I wanna try something a bit different. I’m not that interested in asking the usual questions and just talking about writing. Let’s talk about your influences outside of literature as a way to frame the conversation.

Yes! Thank God. Haha.

I look for you on the storm-smoothed shore,
               glittering where the moon tows itself
across the bay. Cool air fills my lungs with mint

as I walk past sea oats, past sea grapes
               in tidal pools. Waves spread
like playing cards—a flush the land can’t beat—

and the sea keeps upping the ante: first,
               quartz and crysolite, then breakwaters
and wooden weirs, then the land itself,

an erosion so ceaseless I too want to give
               my body, wholly, to something else.
Camped by a fire, you call to me.


By Derrick Austin


In the photograph, my grandfather stands
               in sepia water off Mont Saint-Michel,
barely older than I, having chased wine

and women. Fresh from the Italian Campaign,
               swaggering on the shore,
he points at his brother beyond the frame

(killed a year later by cops who mistook him
               for another black man)
watching lambs whose salty meat is prized

in Normandy, whole racks for christenings.
               You could taste the tide, he says.
Which means what exactly? That he could taste


After passion, what is left? A jewelry box, a locket, a silver button, the silences between these objects. Each of these items sings to one another and it is this chorus that unifies Kristina Marie Darling’s haunted and haunting collection, Melancholia (Ravenna Press). Containing definitions, prose poems, footnotes, and a noctuary (a night journal), the book seeks to define, contain, and understand the aftermath of a failed courtship. In the opening fragmentary epistle, Darling establishes this with a delicacy that is maintained throughout the procedures of definition that bind this book:


By Derrick Austin


Mannequins, in art deco gowns and turbans, faceless,
perfectly formed, pose between claustrophobic rows.

We look at pearl garlands, peignoirs, and buckle shoes
for Slizz Taylor and Judith Iscariot, our drag personas.

You grab mink stoles and opera gloves. Two turns and
snap. We laugh but, no, it wasn’t right. Though I felt

more masculine than usual in a navy cloche. I wonder
what my father would think, you ask eyeing a peacock

feather fan. He wouldn’t think he’d get a gun, I shout
from the dressing room, squeezing into a red cheongsam

afraid of my father’s fear: a man stomping the shit out of me,
blood rorschaching cobbles where my teeth bit, where

someone holds a Leviticus sign both of them have done
what is detestable. They should be put to death. Across

my breast, a dragon roars gold-trim flames. If I died,
I’d go down in this, armor-tight, clasping tiger lilies,

a soldier without country. Content in heaven’s back alleys,
I’ll watch others with twin faces, four arms and legs,

cartwheeling all their joy, and others scratching
their navels, that first scar, wishing their shadow selves.