with lines from Amiri Baraka & James Baldwin
I have left Earth in search of darker planets, a solar system that revolves too near a black hole. I have left a patch of dirt in my place & many of you won’t know the difference; we are indeed the same color, one of us would eventually become the other. You may give it my name if it makes you feel better while running your hands through its soiled scalp. I have left Earth in search of a new God. I do not trust the God you have given us. My grandmother’s hallelujah is only outdone by the fear she nurses every time the blood-fat summer swallows another child who used to sing in the choir. Take your God back, though his songs are beautiful, his miracles are inconsistent. I want the fate of Lazarus for Renisha, I want Chucky, Bo, Meech, Trayvon, Sean & Jonylah risen three days after their entombing, their ghost re-gifted flesh & blood, their flesh & blood re-gifted their children. I have left Earth, I am equal parts sick of your ‘go back to Africa’ as I am your ‘I just don’t see color’ (neither did the poplar tree). We did not build your boats (though we did leave a trail of kin to guide us home). We did not build your prisons (though we did & we fill them too). We did not ask to be part of your America (though are we not America? Her joints brittle & dragging a ripped gown through Oakland?). I can’t stand your ground. I am sick of calling your recklessness the law. Each night, I count my brothers. & in the morning, when some do not survive to be counted, I count the holes they leave. I reach for black folks & touch only air. Your master magic trick, America. Now he’s breathing, now he don’t. Abra-cadaver. White bread voodoo. This systemic sorcery you claim not to practice, but have no problem benefitting from. I tried, white people. I tried to love you, but you spent my brother’s funeral making plans for brunch, talking too loud next to his bones. You interrupted my black veiled mourning with some mess about an article you read on Buzzfeed. You took one look at the river, plump with the body of boy after boy after boy & asked ‘why does it always have to be about race?’ Because you made it so! Because you put an asterisk on my sister’s gorgeous face! Because you call her pretty (for a black girl)! Because black girls go missing without so much as a whisper of where?! Because there is no Amber Alert for the Amber Skinned Girls! Because our heroes always end up shot or shootin-up! Because we didn’t invent the bullet! Because crack was not our recipe! Because Jordan boomed. Because Emmitt whistled. Because Huey P. spoke. Because Martin preached. Because black boys can always be too loud to live. Because this land is scared of the Black mind. Because they have sold the Black body & appropriated Soul. Because it’s taken my father’s time, my mother’s time, my uncle’s time, my brother’s & my sister’s time, my niece’s & my nephew’s time … how much time do you want for your progress? I have left Earth to find a land where my kin can be safe. I will not rest until black people ain’t but people the same color as the good, wet earth, until that means something, until our existence isn’t up for debate, until it is honored & blessed & loved & left alone, until then I bid you well, I bid you war, I bid you our lives to gamble with no more. I have left Earth & I am touching everything you beg your telescopes to show you. I am giving the stars their right names. & this life, this new story & history you cannot own or ruin
This, if only this one, is ours.
Danez Smith is a Cave Canem Fellow, Pushcart Nominee, Survivor & Black Queer from St. Paul, MN. Danez works as a national associate for Youth Speaks – Brave New Voices, the nations largest poetry organization dedicated to engaging youth to use poetry and their voices as a source for social change. Danez is the winner of the 2014 Reading Series Contest sponsored by The Paris-American & was featured in The Academy of American Poets’ Emerging Poets Series by Patricia Smith. Danez is the author of ‘hands on ya knees’, a chapbook (Penmanship Books, 2013). His full-length collection, ‘[insert] Boy, will be published Fall 2014 by YesYes Books. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry Magazine, Ploughshares, Devil’s Lake, Kinfolks & elsewhere. Danez placed 6th in the world at the 2011 Individual World Poetry Slam & is the 2013 Rustbelt Midwest Regional Slam Champion. He writes & lives in Oakland, CA.