being black feels like a lot right now.
they shot a man then they shot
the people mourning the man.
they shot a man while he was
b. walking away
c. already dead
the terrorists i fear played balled with the cops
or they is the cops. i ain’t got much left to give
these poems, black folks of every kind
of body are dying, & yes at our own
hands too & before you start
pointing fingers wash yo bloody
bloody hands. if you still say
things like we need all the info,
there must be a reason
then i can’t waste
anymore time on you. the world
is burning for real for real – some
some us burning, some staying warm.
i turn to the cards, the stars,
G-d, the gods, my sweet dead, all them
say it’s an age of smoke. i pray to everything
i’ve been taught to pray towards.
i smoke a blunt, drink the last of the whiskey
but nothing brings me peace.
i got a fear of being black in public
& white folks are raised to fear of me.
niggagoraphobia has taken over the nation
& i’ve never been more afraid
of a white man’s temper.
in my dreams all the black folks
turn to ants & America is a toddler
stomping us out – she’s so damn scared
& we can’t get away.
i’d be lying if i said i wasn’t scared. every word
i say translate to farewell. joy feels like a kind
of revolt. sometimes i’m just your average
American: too broke & late for brunch, looking
for a new job & hungover, just trying to Netflix
& fuck a little bit then you watch the news or
you hear the worry in your mama’s voice when
she tells you to be careful driving cause the ice
is slick & the cops is bad & she know both
can lead to an accident
my friends are in the streets again because again
& again & so forth & how many more?
poems feel so small right now
my little machines fail me
all i’ve ever wanted to say:
1. We are tired of your reality
2. Until we are guilty the same as you
3. We beg for peace but you hear fire!
4. What you call country, we call the reaping
5. Stop killing us
America, my sweet boy
your lips turn into a cleaver
when you kiss my neck
if a white man who murdered is allowed
to be gentle & a black body murdered
is assumed at fault – if my son gets shot, who
gets mourned? him or the bullet?
it doesn’t feel like a time to write
when all my muses are begging
for their lives.
Danez Smith is the author of [insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, and Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017). Danez is also the author of two chapbooks, hands on your knees (2013, Penmanship Books) and black movie (2015, Button Poetry), winner of the Button Poetry Prize. They are a 2014 Ruth Lilly - Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellow, a Cave Canem and VONA alum, and recipient of a McKnight Foundation Fellowship. They are a 2-time Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, placing 2nd in 2014, and a 2-time Rustbelt Poetry Slam Champion. Danez is a member of the Dark Noise Collective. They from St. Paul, MN.