Today I'm happy by myselfwandering this creek's paths of sand and crushed shells, what used to be submerged.Mosquitos drain me good.Before this river was redirected, it joined two others and flowed into the Gulf.What we cannot change, we evade and call new. We delay. I couldcall the irrigation works at the headwater bog an aubade against flooding.There are picnic spots nearby, gazebos and grillsemerging from palmettos and bindweed.A storm blew down the oak I'd climb to watchfireworks for free.Men still cruise out here.In this lush expanse a manwas lynchedat the beginning of the centuryI was born in.Moving off the trail, I wade into the river.Time feels suspended.My bare feetshuffle pebbles like some grubbing shore bird.Screeching insects, thickets of sweet bay and titi,moldering scent—All this will be gone someday.Gone that paths and signs, gone the milkweed, gonethe armadillos and the fieldand the lynching tree when this river rejoins the othersand washes this away— no, not gonebut come together, history, nature, love, and lossbrought to scale in a gloriousalgal bloom, a brightness of jade and amber,all this water moving toward where it's always belonged,where I cannot be, where I am.
“Epithalamium” from TENDERNESS: by Derrick Austin.
Published by BOA Editions September 21, 2021.
Copyright © 2021 by Derrick Austin.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Derrick Austin is the author of Tenderness (BOA Editions, 2021), winner of the 2020 Isabella Gardner Poetry Award and Golden Poppy Award nominee, and Trouble the Water (BOA Editions, 2016) selected by Mary Szybist for the A. Poulin Jr, Poetry Prize. His debut collection was honored as a finalist for the 2017 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, the 2017 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry, the 2017 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, and the 2017 Norma Faber First Book Award. A chapbook, Black Sand, is forthcoming in early 2022 from Foundlings Press.
“This is a stunning collection for these challenging times when intimacy has escaped us but will, eventually, return. Let this book be your primer.”
—NPR's 2021 Poetry Preview
“Derrick Austin is to a blank page what Titian was to a white canvas. In both of their works, audiences will find an exemplary adroitness with portrait, landscape, and myth. Tenderness, Austin’s second poetry collection, weaves a sinuous lyric that navigates both the physical and metaphysical surroundings of a traveler desirous of understanding, desirous of being understood. The reader senses a certain urgency in the question of how to find tenderness and connection in a world intent on the project of othering. Austin skillfully excavates the rhizomatic truth of belonging and the vulnerable places where God can be found—a touch, a glance, a history, a remembrance.”
—Airea D. Matthews
“It's nice to know that poetry is still a place to go and find some Tenderness, and Derrick Austin's gentle touch is filled with genuine compassion and those soft wounds of the heart that act as release."
—D. A. Powell