We are a song without a chorus. His fingers flutter over the valves: crescendo, crescendo, crescendo, legato. Outside, evening’s sulfur blows off the marsh where herons rest, white fires on dead trees. In my dream, I am the reed he plays. Water lettuces haul their skirts, twirling in the undertow. Palmettos fan toads, squat in green velour, and herons in their white suits quicken. In my dream, I am the reed he cuts. He teaches me to howl. I can’t tell the music from the knife, the moon, his teeth. He carves new registers and plays a song that lights the air— blood on a wing, a splash, the moon’s staccato, toads lashing what flies closest to their mouths—then goes as water rushing off the sedge.
Derrick Austin is an assistant poetry editor at The Nervous Breakdown. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming inKnockout, Waccamaw, Crab Orchard Review, storySouth, and other journals. He won the 2011 Editorial Prize Contest sponsored by Tidal Basin Review and will be pursuing an MFA in poetry at the University of Michigan this fall.