after Kara Walker’s A Subtlety, or The Marvelous Sugar Baby
define this temple of erasure and refinement.
Sweet boys like tropic flowers, machetes, and blood-sweat.
Sweet boys and their archaic smiles. Pursed lips
like the leaves of an unopened book. Sweet boys shock
the antebellum night like ghost trees blanched by salt.
Sweet boys, the Southern Gothic swaying in your dreams
to make your sleep easy, their bodies now magical––
burning, dismembered, singing—to make the myth
easy. Take a picture. Sweet boys consider the daily minstrelsy:
white men throwing signs and smiling for photos,
their grins like flesh wounds, and there, the white woman
assessing the sphinx's ass and genitals. Photo. Photo. Photo.
Sweet boys think This is what it is to be a nigger. A language
of locusts and honey in your mouths, a poultice of resin
in the mouths of the dead. Sweet boys like jawbreakers.
Sweet boys balloon with fire. Sweet boys chase each other through
a burning mansion, and you all merely marvel at the light.
189 The Paris-American
Derrick Austin is a Cave Canem fellow and earned his MFA at the University of Michigan. His work has appeared in New England Review, Image: A Journal of Arts and Religion, Crab Orchard Review, Memorious, Unsplendid, and other journals. He is also a Pushcart Prize nominee.
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