Three New Poems by Danez Smith

October 11, 2017  By Danez Smith

Litany with Blood All Over



once, there was a boy
who learned to sing
who then learned not to sing

once, there was a boy
who heard another boy singing
then told him to stop

these are the same boy
this is every boy

another story: once, a boy
loved summer & so moved
to the sun

same story: once, a boy
ran from winter but could
not shake the dead trees

same story: once, a boy
stood in the woods
until he became it

same story: a boy is a tree

same story: my mother cries
whenever she sees a tree

Boy 1: We made love.
Boy 2: I was experimenting.

Boy 1: He loves me
Boy 2: He lives close

Boy 1: We have something between us.
Boy 2: He is warmest inside.

Boy 1: He’s clean.
Boy 2: I’m clean.


another story: last week a bird
flew into the window. He lived,

but he would not fly hours later
I did with a rock
what the lord would not.

same story: once, I taught
a bird a new flight, with a stone
I made stranger wings.


answer: I did not love him
answer: the curve of his shoulder at dusk
answer: It helps to lie
answer: like the iron in your veins gathering into a bullet
answer: the pale yellow of his teeth
answer: it was Thursday
answer: my blues turn red when they hit the air
answer: yes, you’re right


a night without questions
is a night where everything is a gun


Someone killed a black boy & got away with it
I am the murderer/the victim/the evidence


can say i’ve never had my heart broken
can’t say my heart doesn’t pump a broken formula

i have no equations for my new math
no addition for what in me multiplies

i was negative.
he was negative.
we made a positive thing.

Bussy Blues


haven’t eaten all day
so i can be the feast

be a thing empty & filled
a vase of stale water

& the next second, wet wreckage
i can make oblivion look like a rose

he tells me to look back at it
& i turn to salt

do tops know how much prep
goes into being ruled?

we hoe the good soil, raise the gate,
flood the city for this one lonely steed

how dare they not love us!
isn’t love to say i made room

in my body for your body?
all these brown boys mistake me

for their hands. white ones see
a receipt on my back.

niggas better recognize
i’m God.

my stomach rumbles
i eat a man in reverse.

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.

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