after Kara Walker’s A Subtlety, or The Marvelous Sugar Baby
And how would you tell them from me?
Am I solid, good sirs? Do I melt? You gentlemen
have such excellent taste. It would take you
days to tread me out. Lash me with your tongue.
Would you know me then? I want to know.
Concrete beats sugar from my soles, tar-black
tether of my footsteps. The children of cane,
bodies too much of a good thing. In another life,
their smiles would gild cathedrals. In another,
I would never say In another life.
They are like altar boys and the bells they ring.
What music do you hear? We are precious as ambergris.
We are precious as oil and crowns
of gold teeth. Gentlemen, am I valuable? Would you
touch me and lose your touch in me?
I am not light-skinned (I am dark, but comely)
nor am I light-skinned like these boys,
luscious with the sun. Can you see us now? Are we still
anonymous as bones on rum-colored velvet?
This much I can tell you: I have been skinned
by the moon; my flesh is a loitering man--
collar unbuttoned, beckoning—near the alley
where he takes you, you and my flesh
opening like a book, and the night gains new knowledge--
Oh, my body? Were you gentlemen interested in that too?
DERRICK AUSTIN is a Cave Canem fellow. He earned his MFA from the University of Michigan, and his work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Best American Poetry 2015, Image: A Journal of Arts and Religion, New England Review, Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, The Paris-American, Memorious, and other journals and anthologies. He is Social Media Coordinator for The Offing.