what was said on the bus stop: a new poem by Danez Smith

"i love & have cried for my friends / their browns a different brown than mine"

April 17, 2017  By Danez Smith

lately has been a long time

says the girl from Pakistan, Lahore to be specific
on the bus stop when the white man
asks her next where she’s from & then
says oh, you from Lahore?
it’s pretty bad over there.

                 lately has been a long time
she says & we look at each other & the look says
yes, i too wish this white dude would stop
asking us about where we from, all these questions
derived from skin
but on the other side of that side eye
is maybe a hand where hands do no good
a look to say, yes, i know lately has been
a long time for your people too
& i’m sorry the world is so good at making
us feel like we have to fight for space
to fight for our lives

that might be me projecting but let me project
i want to say something & this
is the only way i can get in
even half good  

solidarity is a word, a lot of people say it
i’m not sure what it means in the flesh
i know i love & have cried for my friends
their browns a different brown than mine
that i have danced their dances when taught
& tasted how their mothers use rice
different than mine. i know sometimes
i can’t see beyond my own pain, pass
but black & white, that bullets
love any flesh. i don’t know how to write this poem
i want to say something about all of us
without speaking for all of us, i want to
say i know it’s foolish to compare.

(what advice do the drowned have for the burned?
what gossip is there between the hung & the buried?)

& i want to reach across that great distance
that is sometimes an ocean & sometimes just a few inches
& say, look. your people, my people, all that has happened
to us & still make love under rusted moons, still pull
children from the mothers & name them,
still we teach them to dance, & your pain is not mine
& is no less, & i pray to my god that your god
blesses you with mercy, & i have tasted your food & understand
how it is a good home, & i don’t know your language
but i understand your songs, & i cried when they came
for your uncles, & i wanted revenge when you buried your niece
& i want the world to burn in child’s memory
& i have stood by you in the soft shawl of morning
& still, still, still, still, still, still, still, still, still, somehow, we breathe.


This poem originally appears in Freeman’s: Home.        Feature image: Solidarity by Käthe Kollwitz, 1932.

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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