Two Poems by Derrick Austin

March 11, 2019


The Devil's Book



There’s no fun in witchery these days.
Sure, I shudder cops with invisible needles,
but magic’s no calling. I simply asked to die
                                                                            on my own terms.

Meanwhile, the Earth’s sick
of our ego. It will outlast us. We’ll burn
                                              ourselves out and no one will grieve
and good riddance—
                                              Devil take us.


Tituba refused The Devil’s Book. Before the good people, she
testified: I love the dust on my heels when I am luxurious

and they heard dancing with the Devil.
God gave me imagination and a just will
and they heard the flight of women
                                                                above steeple and meeting house.

Tituba was no witch. She simply saw the nooses
each citizen held.
                                     They ran themselves ragged.



Remembering God after Three Years of Depression



Where was your familiar body, rough hands
smelling of rosemary? Insomnia watched me,
wild-haired, unwashed, like an officer.
Perhaps, the light through the keyhole
was you, floorboards straining in another room.
In the hall, a sleepwalker, like divine love,
sang the blues, bleeding dream into the world.
I feared a knock at the door. I needed a hand.
Would you have found me on the deflated air
mattress, among filthy shirts, half-eaten food?
I don’t know what to call doubt when you are here
and I am not. What is it to be exiled in you?
Maybe if I’d been drinking red instead of white.
I had no space in me for less than life.




Derrick Austin is the author of Trouble the Water (BOA Editions). A Cave Canem fellow, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Poetry, Image: A Journal of Arts and Religion, New England Review, Gulf Coast, The Nation, Tin House, and other anthologies and publications. He was a finalist for the 2017 Kate Tufts Discovery Award.












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