say it with your whole black mouth

say it with your whole black mouth: i am innocent

& if you are not innocent, say this: i am worthy of forgiveness, of breath after breath

i tell you this: i let blue eyes dress me in guilt
walked around stores convinced the very skin of my palm was stolen

& what good has that brought me? days filled flinching
thinking the sirens were reaching for me

& when the sirens were for me
did i not make peace with god?

so many white people are alive because
we know how to control ourselves.

how many times have we died on a whim
wielded like gallows in their sun-shy hands?

here, standing in my own body, i say: the next time
they murder us for the crime of their imaginations

i don’t know what i’ll do.

i did not come to preach of peace
for that is not the hunted’s duty.

i came here to say what i can’t say
without my name being added to a list

what my mother fears i will say

                       what she wishes to say herself

i came here to say

i can’t bring myself to write it down

sometimes i dream of pulling a red apology
from a pig’s collared neck & wake up crackin up

           if i dream of setting fire to cul-de-sacs
           i wake chained to the bed

i don’t like thinking about doing to white folks
what white folks done to us

when i do
                      can’t say

          i don’t dance

o my people

          how long will we

reach for god

          instead of something sharper?

          my lovely doe

with a taste for meat

          take

the hunter

          by his hand

More by Danez Smith

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

 

juxtaposing the black boy & the bullet

one is hard & the other tried to be

          one is fast & the other was faster

                    one is loud & one is a song
                    with one note & endless rest
          
                     one's whole life is a flash

        both spend their life
        trying to find a warmth to call home

both spark quite the debate,
some folks want to protect them/some think we should just get rid
                                      of the damn things all together.

not an elegy for Mike Brown

I am sick of writing this poem
but bring the boy. his new name

his same old body. ordinary, black
dead thing. bring him & we will mourn
until we forget what we are mourning

& isn’t that what being black is about?
not the joy of it, but the feeling

you get when you are looking
at your child, turn your head,
then, poof, no more child.

that feeling. that’s black.

\\

think: once, a white girl

was kidnapped & that’s the Trojan war.

later, up the block, Troy got shot
& that was Tuesday. are we not worthy

of a city of ash? of 1000 ships
launched because we are missed?

always, something deserves to be burned.
it’s never the right thing now a days.

I demand a war to bring the dead boy back
no matter what his name is this time.

I at least demand a song. a song will do just fine.

\\

look at what the lord has made.
above Missouri, sweet smoke.

Related Poems

2019

I could string him back up the tree, if you’d like.
     Return his skin’s meaning to an easy distance, coal dust, blaze
And Willie Brown him. You
     Love how the blood muddies the original,
The way it makes a stage of my speechifying, this leeching
     Capital from his dying,
Like an activist. I know
 
I’m not supposed to sing
 
Of his ringing
     Penetrability, some hole I open impose
On the form—but all I see is bullets, bullets discerning him,
     As years ago it was rope.
I could pull it tighter, finger each bullet deeper,
     If you’d like, an inch rougher,
Far enough to where becomes that second heat, erotic.
 
I could use the erotic,
 
If you’d like,
     So ungarish, baring not too frank
A mood, subtle so you need it.— Funny
     How some dark will move illicit if you close your eyes,
The way, say, my black
     Pleasure is named too explicit for a page, but this menace
I put in it is not.
 
I could yank and knot
 
The rope, if you’d like, him like a strange fragment
     In them trees,
And the word “again” spelled out about his neck
     Would be the rope’s predicate till let wild, patterned and
Fierce his moan.
     It is a tragedy. No. It is a sonnet, how I know
Already how he ends,
 
But I could make him
 
Her, if you’d like, regender them till merely
     Canvas for your “empathy,”
Soup for my mouth. Still, if I could but just get
     This blunt,
Burnt lynched body up
     From on
Out the pocket behind my eye
 
All trees could be themselves again, all sound.