Taking My Father and Brother to The Frick

Disembark the Turners seem to say,
those starburst barges glowing in the dusk,
but I can’t read old Rembrandt,
his guarded eyes are jewels, like black men.
Even the loaned, marble busts
of kings and soldiers fail to arrest you.
It’s nearly closing time. The elderly linger,
rapt. Who has looked at either of you lately
with such tenderness?
                                      Entering the narrow hall,
I ignore my favorite portraits, their ruffles
and bodices, carnations and powder puffs,
afraid to share my joy with you,
yet your bearing in this space—the procession
of your shoulders, the crowns of your heads—
makes them sing anew.
                                      You are both good men. 
Walk into the Fragonard Room. You both seem bored still.
It’s fine. Perhaps we can progress like these panels,
slowly and without words, here—the city
where I first knew men in the dark—
in this gold and feminine room.


Copyright © 2015 by Derrick Austin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 23, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Wandering museums, spending hours among art, is among my favorite things to do but so often I do it alone. I imagined sharing, or attempting to share, this deeply quiet, intimate space with my father and brother. I’m usually at a loss for words when it comes to writing about my family, and this is an attempt to share something of the love and silence with them.”
Derrick Austin