“self-portrait as ’90s R&B video”

From Danez Smith's Collection, Homie

January 21, 2020  By Danez Smith

lately i’ve been opening doors in slow motion
& find myself wearing loose white silks
in rooms packed with wind machines & dusk.

i have a tendency to be sad near windows
thinking of all the problems i have
with my man with his triflin yellow ass.

my man is more a concept than anything.
at dinner i watch red-pepper soup spill
onto his powder-blue button-down

& ask, why don’t you love me anymore?
i sit on the couch with a wine glass full
of milk, cry in ways that frame me gorgeous

& fuckable. my girls come over & we light
his suits to spark our spliffs. my best bitch
tells me i need to get over him, say he don’t

even exist, but what she know? i have all this
house to walk through, all these gowns to cry
on, all these windows to watch the rain.

there must be a man in this house who loves me
too much to do it well. there’s a room
in my basement filled with water & gold & that’s it.

water up to my well-managed waist
gold-link chains curl around my ankles
like a boa constrictor or the hands of a man

around a neck he once loved to bite.
i dip my head in, let even my hair get wet
& rise out the water Hood Venus

Afrodite, ghetto god with iced-out ropes draped
from my head & arms, covering my nipples
& ill nana just so. i could be a trophy for some

award show only niggas know, every rapper’s
favorite ex, 1996 given a body & he don’t
want this? i walk into my foyer cause i have

a foyer & say who is she, nigga? i promise
the hydrangeas flinch. my man is so fake
he don’t exist. my girls was right—the suits

we lit were mine, my man is all in my head
& it’s a bad head. tomorrow, after i run
& spend some time studying the mirror

i’ll burn this whole shit down
like Left Eye would, like any good wife.
whatever survives will be my kingdom.

i hope i make it.


From Homie by Danez Smith. Featured with the permission of the publisher, Graywolf Press. 

Danez Smith
Danez Smith
Danez Smith is the author of Don’t Call Us Dead, winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection and a finalist for the National Book Award, and [insert] boy, winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. They live in Minneapolis. Their latest poetry collection, Homie , is available now from Graywolf.

More Story
Post-Soviet Travel on the Turkmen-­Kazakh Border The no-man's land between Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan was wider than it looked. The sun shone down from a clear, blue sky,...

Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.