Days After

            July 14, 2013 (Not Guilty)

The rally is not the mourning I need. A Protestor wears a new gray, leopard-print hoodie, carries tropical flavor Skittles, 99-cent honey-iced tea. Black boy—still dead. White Man richer, free, alive. Tall White Guy with the Socialist T-shirt is the master of ceremonies, a stale hype man for revolution. White Girl with Dreads and a Djembe talk about body politics and the new laws trying to tag the walls of wombs. Older White Man in Denim Vest with Spray-Painted Peace Sign brought his tambourine and his solidarity stickers. Young Black Youth with Kinki Twist is the closest I come to the realest I sought. She is hurt. She is angry. She is heartbroken. For an instant, I let it be true. A black boy was killed. His murderer is free. I am not surprised.

Today, White Lady at the rally cries holding a picture of that pretty dead boy on the TV. Tomorrow, she sees 6’2’’ black man walking towards her and crosses the street. There is a new moon tonight, and it looks like nothing is in the sky at all. But the moon is there, big and bright as ever, but even I have become so good at giving no glory to things that blend in with the night.

On the way to my car, within a block of the rally, I see: Black Woman my mother’s age drooling on her breast and her stained cotton dress; Black Man sweating in long-sleeve denim suit who could be my father asks me for change; White Couples Behind Glass eating clams, scallops with sautéed onions, talking about the grandkids.

 

            November 3, 2013 (Did you hear about that girl? She was asking for help.)

Fear, that’s a word. Rage, that’s one too. As is sorrow. As is murder. As is black and that one has several meanings. Sick is a word. Hollow is a word too. What use do I have for them any more? I don’t want to write. I want to burn. I want to burn everything. But I don’t want to live in castles of ash. I barely want to live (but I must—but who is to say I get to?).

I don’t want to talk about hope. I’ll hope next week. As of now, there is no just thing anywhere. I have trouble believing in the mercy of God, but I am ever aware of his creations and how we uncreate so easily.

And if I was unmade tomorrow, would my murderer walk free? Better question: what color would he be? Don’t tell me it doesn’t matter, it always has. If I, tomorrow, was a memory, would my name be more than shapeless smoke from blunts lit in my honor? Would my trial be quiet or cause a wildfire? Would the case set a precedent or continue a pattern? I don’t want to protest anymore. I want to weep. I want the whole world to take a day to grieve, but I know there are people celebrating somewhere. I want to turn off all the noise everywhere. There are some days even music isn’t welcome. I want to hold every black boy in the world. I want my house to change into my mother’s hands. I want nothing more than nothing. I don’t want to write, but how can I not? I’ve taught myself to write to survive. I’ve been taught that I am not guaranteed to survive.

 

            October 12th, 2014 (Ferguson, October)

I’m smoking on my couch and I’m not doing enough. I’m washing the peaches and I’m not doing enough. I’m screaming a man’s man and I’m not doing enough. I’m trying to figure out when I can get to the beach this week and I’m not doing enough. I wanted to be in Ferguson this weekend and I didn’t. I’m not sure how far rage would take me and I know what I’m capable of. I’m not scared of police and I know my luck. I’m scared of police and I know it’s mutual. I don’t own a gun and I shouldn’t. I know where my grandmother keeps hers and I get it in the will. I will throw it in the river and under my bed. Another boy on the news and I haven’t learned his name yet. Another boy and it’s barely news. A new one and it’s already old. I’m eating yogurt and I’m not doing enough. I wonder if the white girls across from me are thinking about black life, guilt, and I know they’re not. I don’t know his name and it matters. It matters—the boy’s name and the fact that I must know it. I’m thinking about the privilege of asking questions. I’m thinking about whiteness and how it becomes you. I’m thinking about how blackness and how you can call it heirloom or hand-me-down. I’m thinking about my sister thinking about Raven-Symone. I’m thinking about the girl on the news and I’m bringing it up too late. I’m thinking about the girl and what was the last one’s name? I’m thinking about them. All of them. I’m thinking about the news-less girls. I’m thinking about the boys who didn’t deserve it. I’m thinking we might have different standards for innocence. I’m thinking about prisons and how many there are. I’m thinking about jumpsuits made of bad cotton. I’m thinking about this has got to be a dream. I’m thinking this whole thing is someone’s dream. I’m thinking about a dark bird’s sleep. I’m thinking about closing all the windows and locking the door. I’m never going outside again and I want to run to the ocean. I’m American and don’t want to be anything else and I hate that. I’m so damn American. I hit the streets. I change the channel. I tweet about it. I think about it a lot. I sleep about seven hours a night. I get weekends off.

Danez SmithDanez Smith is the winner of a 2014 Ruth Lilly & Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from Poetry Magazine/The Poetry Foundation. He is also the recipient of fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, Cave Canem, VONA, & elsewhere. Danez is the author of [insert] Boy (YesYes Books, 2014) & the chapbook hands on ya knees (Penmanship books, 2013). He was featured in The Academy of American Poets’ Emerging Poets Series by Patricia Smith. Danez is a founding member of the multi-genre, multicultural Dark Noise Collective. His writing has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Beloit Poetry Journal, Kinfolks, & elsewhere. He placed second at the 2014 Individual World Poetry Slam, is the reigning 2-time Rustbelt Individual Champion & was on 2014 Championship Team Sad Boy Supper Club. In 2014, he was the Festival Director for the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam. He holds a BA from UW-Madison where he was a First Wave Urban Arts Scholar. He was born in St. Paul, MN.