the bullet was a girl
the bullet is his whole life.
his mother named him & the bullet
was on its way. in another life
the bullet was a girl & his skin
was a boy with a sad laugh.
they say he asked for it—
must I define they? they are not
monsters, or hooded or hands black
with cross smoke.
they teachers, they pay tithes
they like rap, they police—good folks
gather around a boy’s body
to take a picture, share a prayer.
oh da horror, oh what a shame
why’d he do that to himself?
they really should stop
getting themselves killed
Copyright © 2015 by Danez Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 3, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets
“This poem came while I was thinking about the casual nature with which many media outlets and people talk about the death, murder, and oppression of black Americans. It worries me how regular black murders have become in our vocabulary, so much that we speak of these maddening acts of violence as if there is destiny or tradition at play. I won’t pretend like violence against the black bodies isn’t an American tradition and sickness, but I refuse to deem it destiny or incurable. This poem is as much a true feeling as it is a complete lie.”