Queer Poem-a-Day is a program from the Adult Services Department at the Library and may include adult language. 

Is This or Is This True as Happiness

by Derrick Austin

When we finally make it, we sit on cold stones.
The river curling over and under our feet
even colder. His secret place.

The air has that early fall smell, things beginning
to rot, the wet soil nourishing itself.
We’re trespassing. 

Anything could happen
to me in this white ass town. I’m terrified
if he knows that and terrified if he doesn’t.

My body is puffy, unremarkable.
I’ve grown distant and sullen.
A witch told me gin placates the dead.

Whose dead have I been trying to drown
drinking my own elegy?
He asks if I’m happy, and I say yes. See how easy it is

to get here, he says. Yes,
I say. But you have to take me back.

Copyright © 2019 by Derrick Austin. Used with the permission of the author. Originally published in Tin House in 2019.

Derrick Austin is the author of Tenderness, forthcoming from BOA Editions in Fall 2021, and Trouble the Water (BOA Editions). He is a 2019-2021 Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University. He currently lives in Oakland, CA.

Queer Poem-a-Day is directed by poet and teacher Lisa Hiton and Dylan Zavagno, Adult Services Coordinator at the Deerfield Public Library. Music for our series is from Excursions Op. 20, Movement 1, by Samuel Barber, performed by pianist Daniel Baer. Queer Poem-a-Day is supported by a generous donation from the Friends of the Deerfield Public Library.