ISSUE THIRTEEN | FALL 2019
Back home where the Gulf is historian
and time, it’s hurricane season:
don’t think I make light of water
barreling into homes, cane fields laid low—
it began like this for me you know,
rocking in the undertow of my mother,
sustained by what is flowing and free,
still able to breathe that water.
I was born in south Florida.
Storms were named. My father named me.
Charts for potential and charts for disaster.
I was one of many black children alive in America.
Hurricane Hugo ravaged the Antilles.
The sun was in Virgo and the moon in Cancer.
For years I wanted a veil
the color of gulls
brightening this acre of sky,
veil as in shield and haven, as in
service to a lord who, without harm,
entrusts his hand to me, allows my body’s
intimacies and silence. I could be
unsure without confession. There is a sound
within the sea—neither male nor female—
that could be the sound
of my body’s deep-aqua sway.
The wedding party returns.
Boats, like the gulls, come close to me.
Someone says, This is heaven.
And it can be. What do we know?
I soak my feet and minnows shine,
on the hem of a garment that touches the world,
we consume the water and enter
the water wishing to be consumed and
A black couple camps by the water—
bubble and rush, flirt and withdraw—
kissing, stroking their arms,
dissolving what they perceive
into biography and flesh and dream.
The younger man leans into the space between
his lover’s neck and shoulder and—
hear the sermon of that old nihilist, the sea?—
they crane their heads and look toward the sun.
Derrick Austin is the author of Trouble the Water (BOA Editions). He is a 2019-2021 Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University.
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