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Poem: "It Doesn't Feel Like A Time To Write" By Danez Smith

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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

a. handcuffed

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.

Danez Smith is a 2014 Ruth Lilly & Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellow. He is the author of [insert] Boy. His writing has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Beloit Poetry Journal, Kinfolks & elsewhere.

Contact Danez Smith at danez.smith@gmail.com.

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