three Black poems from August

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.

About this Poem

“Firstly, I love Black people. Also, I’ve been writing or at least trying to write a poem or two every day this year. Maybe, more accurately, I’m trying to touch language via the page once a day. These are three attempts from one month’s journal that I thought might be starting to sing to each other. They’re not done, but I like where they’re going. The first was written by my window in Minneapolis; the second, composed in my head on a run around Loring Park; the third, on a stoop in Philly.”
Danez Smith