Riding into Triumph
That summer when I held my tablet like a mirror and watched myself
die in so many ways—shot on the dancefloor, in a car, at home—
I would hide out in your home.
One day, too lazy to leave our bed to find your glasses,
you enlarged the article I sent you
on the Rothschild bronzes, a miracle attribution to Michelangelo
based on their supple backs, a transverse arch, and the pattern of pubic hair.
What I wanted was to be found like this,
in the way of the archivist, tenderly and across time,
not in the way of the autopsy report.
Letter to Cody on Walpurgisnacht
Again last night I dreamed the dream called Femme;
in it, my rings and Jungle Red nails flickered against my caftan;
I wrapped my hair in white, after my great-grandmother,
and walked down the street without incident in ordinary air.
Shame comes from the phrase to cover, did you know?
Cackling over whiskey, I wasn’t afraid for both of us.
We could live deliciously. You said my gender was glamour,
and I believed you. In another version of our lives we were sisters
trundling up the Brocken to meet the coven, bramble and thistle
whispering underfoot. On the mountaintop, there was no
great-horned gentleman in black, no babies boiling in fat.
Why are we only remembered covered in blood and gristle?
Whirling around a fire, we were allowed, briefly, our bodies,
far from the burnings in Würzburg, Bamberg, and Trier.
Derrick Austin is the author of Trouble the Water (BOA Editions). A Cave Canem fellow, his work has appeared in Best American Poetry 2015, Image: A Journal of Arts and Religion, New England Review, Nimrod, and other anthologies and publications. He was a finalist for the 2017 Kate Tufts Discovery Award.