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Recorded as part of the Poem-a-Day series, September 3, 2015.
About this Poem 

“This poem came while I was thinking about the casual nature with which many media outlets and people talk about the death, murder, and oppression of black Americans. It worries me how regular black murders have become in our vocabulary, so much that we speak of these maddening acts of violence as if there is destiny or tradition at play. I won’t pretend like violence against the black bodies isn’t an American tradition and sickness, but I refuse to deem it destiny or incurable. This poem is as much a true feeling as it is a complete lie.”
Danez Smith

the bullet was a girl

the bullet is his whole life.
his mother named him & the bullet

was on its way. in another life
the bullet was a girl & his skin

was a boy with a sad laugh.
they say he asked for it— 

must I define they? they are not
monsters, or hooded or hands black

with cross smoke.
they teachers, they pay tithes

they like rap, they police—good folks
gather around a boy’s body

to take a picture, share a prayer.
oh da horror, oh what a shame

why’d he do that to himself?
they really should stop
getting themselves killed

 

Copyright © 2015 by Danez Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 3, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets

Copyright © 2015 by Danez Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 3, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets

Danez Smith

Danez Smith

Danez Smith is the author of Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017) and [insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014).

by this poet

poem
say it with your whole black mouth: i am innocent
           & if you are not innocent, say this: i am worthy of forgiveness, of breath after breath

i tell you this: i let blue eyes dress me in guilt
walked around stores convinced the very skin of my palm was stolen

& what
2
poem
let ruin end here
 
let him find honey
where there was once a slaughter
 
let him enter the lion’s cage
& find a field of lilacs
 
let this be the healing
& if not   let it be
 
poem

one is hard & the other tried to be

          one is fast & the other was faster

                    one is loud & one is a song
                    with one note & endless rest
          
                     one's whole life is a flash

        both spend their life