escape & travel mean the same to me. add took.
can’t see journey & not see flee. to run to
implies away, here pointing at left.

little fugitive, 
little used-to-slave, 
          where does the map end?
little broke-out, 
little dipped,
          where is freedom’s home?
little off-the-chain, 
little stole-back,
          there is a place where your blues is not fuel, coin
          unrequired & softer. i seen’t it in a dream
          thru a hole in one of they necks.

a hole i put there. 


it smelled of vanilla* near the young men
bent & giggling golds over their dice & bills.
          *someone’s girl lingering
            or a cold twist up
            or or one of them frenched
            & pearled a left that will kill them
            but makes it sweet
held in my lungs until they were gone
did you know we are made of cake? 


            must live near oilargan & jojoba
                     may trash lift from the street like damp birds

but for now, bless the bottle eight times smashed
if it was once auntie’s cold pop fetched. 

who should bless it? 
        is the most popular god on the block
        the one making the miracles? 

        who sends the breeze
to Kenya’s neck? 
                             who was the tribe of ants
                                         escorting Dayshawn home again alive
who kept someone’s son from seeing your son & seeing
his mother’s rent the kicks you overtimed for him?

                            & since i implied the mother 
                            let her be God here.

         God has a good foot, a bad foot & a new ’09 ford. 

                   God hasn’t
worked in three years. 

                   God hasn’t been fucked right since he went
                             back in. 

God, your bonnet 
is a crown worm-woven & my morning star.

         God hasn’t believed in God since the wake.

Copyright © 2021 by Danez Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 17, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

My brother was a dark-skinned boy
with a sweet tooth, a smart mouth,
and a wicked thirst. At seventeen,
when I left him for America, his voice
was staticked with approaching adulthood,
he ate everything in the house, grew
what felt like an inch a day, and wore
his favorite shirt until mom disappeared it.
Tonight I’m grateful he slaked his thirst
in another country, far from this place
where a black boy’s being calls like crosshairs
to conscienceless men with guns and conviction.

I remember my brother’s ashy knees
and legs, how many errands he ran on them
up and down roads belonging to no one
and every one. And I’m grateful
he was a boy in a country of black boys,
in the time of walks to the store
on Aunty Marge’s corner to buy contraband
sweeties and sweetdrinks with change
snuck from mom’s handbag or dad’s wallet—
how that was a black boy’s biggest transgression,
and so far from fatal it feels an un-American dream.

Tonight, I think of my brother
as a black boy’s lifeless body spins me
into something like prayer—a keening
for the boy who went down the road, then
went down fighting, then went down dead.
My brother was a boy in the time of fistfights
he couldn’t win and that couldn’t stop
him slinging his weapon tongue anyway,
was a boy who went down fighting,
and got back up wearing his black eye
like a trophy. My brother who got up,
who grew up, who got to keep growing.

Tonight I am mourning the black boys
who are not my brother and who are
my brothers. I am mourning the boys
who walk the wrong roads, which is any road
in America. Tonight I am mourning
the death warrant hate has made of their skin—
black and bursting with such ordinary
hungers and thirsts, such abundant frailty,
such constellations of possibility, our boys
who might become men if this world spared them,
if it could see them whole—boys, men, brothers—human.

Copyright © 2020 by Lauren K. Alleyne. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 14, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

ignites in me plenitude
that scents rain. Sense
the sky is full of surprising
music. Timpani, trumpet

a blue tent torn that orders
cogent, cumulative event in which no false intonation
claims itself king

over all. Every last woman
man, and child proof the rain falls
never to be worn out

Freedom is the breaking point beyond rage
I’m not scared and I don’t care where the dream
undertakers have warned me not
to take too much, not to
love too much, not to look too closely at the past,
What could there be left to break?

Nothing left to be broken
Nothing left to be taken.


From Jump the Clock: New and Selected Poems (Nightboat Books, 2020). Copyright © 2020 by Erica Hunt. Used with the permission of the poet.

Dad’s house stands again, four years
after being demolished. I walk in.
He lies in bed, licks his rolling paper,
and when I ask Where have you been?
We buried you, he says I know,

I know. I lean into his smoke, tell him
I went back to Jamaica. I met your brothers,
losing  you made me need them. He says
something I don’t hear. What?  Moving lips,
no sound. I shake my head. He frowns.

Disappears. I wake in the hotel room,
heart drumming. I get up slowly, the floor
is wet. I wade into the bathroom,
my father stands by the sink, all the taps
running. He laughs and takes

my hand, squeezes.
His ring digs into my flesh. I open my eyes.
I’m by a river, a shimmering sheet
of green marble. Red ants crawl up
an oak tree’s flaking bark. My hands

are cold mud. I follow the tall grass
by the riverbank, the song. My Orisha,
Oshun in gold bracelets and earrings, scrubs
her yellow dress in the river. I wave, Hey!
She keeps singing. The dress turns the river

gold and there’s my father surfacing.
He holds a white and green drum. I watch him
climb out of the water, drip toward Oshun.
They embrace. My father beats his drum.
With shining hands, she signs: Welcome.

My father beats his drum.


Copyright © 2020 by Raymond Antrobus. Originally published in Poetry (May, 2020). Reprinted with the permission of the poet.

Note the diameter of your invisible ink tattoo as if it hides
a crossword hint like “Clueless dope for dopamine”
But not because your inner twin sold all your Rap albums
for a white powder that made you feel touched by God, yet
left a trail like Comet. Note how a certain name trails off with
the number e to perhaps signify their constant interest in
a continuously growing silence. Does an infinite series
of silences imply addition or addiction? In one language
you understand, pegadu means touching and begins with
the letter P. Like Pi is filled with touches of fruitful irrationality,
and may hide a circle’s Private Key. Note how rumors of you
crossing the street to sneak rides on fire trucks are irrational, but
not because you’re vain or became a pyromaniac. The circumference
of urinal cakes may be solved with Pi or dissolved with pee.
Is it irrational that you looped like an extension cord while trying
to solve for the value of P, but got beat like a bowl of egg yolks
for wetting the bed? During the beating was their mouth agápē or
agape? Has it not been proven that trauma only feels transcendental
due to the ratio of the diameter which severs us to the circumference
which makes us a whole? Being born under the Sign of the Asp might
be key, but note that a Volta can turn in currents of a Ghanaian river
or in currents alternating like a weathervane until any cryptic tattoo
could simply signify who held you down and touched you, but also
told you to hold it forever because their love was like the Holy Ghost.

Copyright © 2022 by Joel Dias-Porter. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 3, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.